United States space agency's planet hunt begins as Tess launches

Share

The Falcon 9 rocket company SpaceX successfully launched into orbit a space telescope TESS, created to search for planets around other stars.

JOB: Tess will scan nearly the entire sky during its $337 million mission, staring at hundreds of thousands, even millions of small, faint red dwarf stars.

The goal will be to spot a winking in the stars as proof of "transit", which is the moment when a planet passes the star, creating a dip in brightness.

"We are thrilled TESS is on its way to help us discover worlds we have yet to imagine, worlds that could possibly be habitable, or harbor life". "It looks like a GEO transfer orbit, but going further out towards the moon", said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, at a pre-launch press conference April 15. Its first scientific data is expected in July. Is it light and water-rich?

TESS, which is about the size of a small vehicle, will launch on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Ground-based telescopes initially will help verify suspected planets and measure their masses and densities to determine what sort of planets they are. These stars will be 30 to 100 times brighter than those seen by the Kepler spacecraft and it is estimated that 300 Earth-like planets will be discovered during the primary mission.

"I'm most excited about the large number of planets that are between the size of Earth and Neptune that TESS will find", Quintana says.

It is unlikely that JWST or any other existing telescope would be capable of detecting biosignatures on an exoplanet as small as Earth. The Falcon 9 reached its point of maximum stress one minute and 16 seconds into the launch with the main engine shutting down at the two-minute-29-second mark. Hundreds of thousands of stars will be scrutinized, with the expectation that thousands of exoplanets - planets outside our own solar system - will be revealed right in our cosmic backyard.

USQ's project lead, Associate Professor Rob Wittenmyer, said that for the first time in human history we know almost every star in the sky has planets around it, however don't know what these planets are like. Christiansen said. "We can resolve competing theories about how planets form". Since it will excel at measuring very quick changes in light, it will also be equipped to study supernovae and other brief, explosive events. Moreover, TESS shouldn't have to perform too many attitude corrections in this orbit, mission team members have said.

"Maunakea provides some of the best conditions in the world to observe TESS targets", said Christoph Baranec, an IFA astronomer.

Share