SpcaeX readying to launch NASA's TESS telescope

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is scheduled to launch Monday at 6:32 pm (2232 GMT) atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

NASA calls TESS its "next step" in discovering exoplanets - a planet that orbits a star in any solar system other than the one Earth calls home - "including those that could support life". Mission officials have said that this satellite will likely find thousands of worlds during its two-year mission.

It will take NASA's planet hunter TESS and deliver it into space.TESS is equipped with a special monitoring system that catches the light of stars in space and analyzes its potential.

These so-called "transits" may mean that planets are in orbit around them. "But I want to add that we care about all the planets that we find, not just the habitable ones - because for a variety of reasons, all the planets matter".

She told reporters on the eve of the launch: 'It was created to look at 150,000 stars in a fairly wide field of view without blinking, for four years.

After launch on board a Space X rocket, TESS is expected to send back its first images by June. The idea is that a few planets orbiting these stars may be similar to our own. The aging spacecraft is now low on fuel and near the end of its life.

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In terms of exoplanets, NASA's Kepler space telescope has observed more than 300,000 stars and found more than 4,000 exoplanet candidates since it launched in 2009. "This special orbit will allow TESS's cameras to monitor each patch of sky continuously for almost a month at a time".

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

"By looking at such a large section of the sky - this kind of stellar real estate - we open up the ability to cherry-pick the best stars to do follow-up science", said Jenn Burt, a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

"These are the exoplanets that will be easiest to follow up, so that we can study the planets in great detail and learn more about their characteristics", Paul Hertz, who heads NASA's astrophysics division, said during a pre-launch briefing.

Ricker said: 'TESS is going to dramatically increase the number of planets that we have to study.

  • Toni Ryan