Launch of NASA's next planet-hunting mission postponed

Jose Verdugo
Abril 17, 2018

"On average the stars that TESS observes are 30-100 times brighter and 10 times closer than the stars that Kepler focused on".

TESS should arrive in orbit around Earth - on a never-before-used, highly elliptical path that takes it close to the moon - about two months later.

Its powerful vision will have the capability to analyse the atmospheres of some of Tess's new worlds, to look for gases that might hint at the presence of life.

If all goes well with the launch and calibration phases of the mission, the first haul of new planets found by TESS could be announced later this year.

By focusing on planets dozens to hundreds of light-years way, TESS may enable future breakthroughs, he said.

"Kepler broke open the field in a rather dramatic way", Ricker said - demonstrating that for every star in the sky, there are untold numbers of exoplanets waiting to be found.

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The planets found by TESS, however, might not be super-cozy little places, because the mission will mainly be targeting planets orbiting small stars called red dwarfs.

"But since then, we have found thousands of planets orbiting others stars and we think all the stars in our galaxy must have their own family of planets".

The national Board of the U.S. on Aeronautics and research of space administration (NASA) launches orbiting Observatory TESS. Researchers would be able to use it to analyze the starlight that filters through the planets' atmospheres, looking for hints of habitability.

"We have this whole army of observatories and astronomers on the ground waiting eagerly to be told, 'Here's a candidate, '" she said. For that, astronomers must await missions that are still in their concept phase, and will not launch for almost two decades.

Nasa predicts that TESS will discover 20,000 exoplanets - or planets outside the solar system - including more than 50 Earth-sized planets and up to 500 planets less than twice the size of Earth. Based on how much of a dip in light a planet causes in its star, we can determine that planet's size. In addition, we can form a picture of what the inside of a star looks like. "TESS is kind of like a scout", said Natalia Guerrero, deputy manager of TESS Objects of Interest, an MIT-led effort that will catalogue objects captured in TESS data that may be potential exoplanets.

But she says that's where astronomers now have the best chance of finding something with the available technology.

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