NASA is all set to launch its new exoplanet hunter, a satellite that will stare out at the cosmos searching for never-before-seen worlds. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is scheduled to lift off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Monday, April 16, at 6:32 PM EDT.
The spacecraft will be carried into orbit by SpaceX, and will ride one of the company's Falcon 9 rockets out of the atmosphere. Once up and running, the satellite will be used to detect exoplanets, which are planets outside of our own Solar System.
Here are the key features
- TESS is NASA's next step in the search for planets outside of our solar system, known as exoplanets, including those that could support life.
- Equipped with four specialized cameras, TESS will be able to gaze at 85 percent of the entire sky, according to reports.
- The mission is expected to catalog thousands of planet candidates and vastly increase the current number of known exoplanets.
- TESS will find the most promising exoplanets orbiting relatively nearby stars, giving future researchers a rich set of new targets for more comprehensive follow-up studies, including the potential to assess their capacity to harbor life.
- TESS will spend around two years, surveying some 200000 of the brightest stars near the Sun in search of planets.
- The first year of observations will cover 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky and the second year will map the remaining 13 sectors of the northern sky.
- Like Kepler, TESS will find exoplanets by looking for what astronomers call transits, in which planets' orbits take them in front of their host stars and temporarily block a portion of the starlight.
- If TESS observes a periodic dimming of light from a particular star, it's reasonable to infer that the star is being orbited by at least one alien world.