NASA to launch long-awaited exoplanet-hunting satellite today

NASA to launch long-awaited exoplanet-hunting satellite today

For the next two years, TESS will survey the sky, breaking it into 26 sections, each 24 degrees by 96 degrees across, specficially looking for exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars.

USA space agency NASA will launch its much-anticipated Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite on Monday in a bid to look for life beyond earth. Those could be the best candidates for supporting life outside our solar system.

The spacecraft is scheduled to launch on Monday, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

This is the first time in history when a space-borne all-sky transit survey will be conducted.

Nasa is planning to launch a telescope that will ride on a SpaceX rocket created to hunt for 20,000 new worlds, the Guardian writes.

TESS will also look at stars that are much closer, about 30 to 300 lightyears away, than those examined by Kepler, which studied stars 300 to 3,000 light years away.

TESS is the latest in a line of exoplanet hunters, building on the success of the Kepler Space Telescope in a big way. However, the Kepler telescope was only able to resolve stars only in one specific area of space, about 0.28 percent of the entire sky, so it spied few nearby exoplanets.

"TESS is helping us explore our place in the universe", said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters.

Through TESS, scientists will attempt to track super-earths - these are planets that could support life. Other telescopes on the ground will have to make further observations, principally using what's known as the radial velocity method, which measures the degree of gravitational wobble a planet causes in its star. "We're going to be able study individual planets and start talking about the differences between planets". "It is time to take a step closer to meeting the neighbours", the U.S. space agency said. It's the beginning of a new era of exoplanet research. And mass divided by size equals density, so astronomers can determine whether they're looking at a puffy ball of gas or a solid chunk of rock. I asked Sara Seager, also at MIT, how close we are to finding Earth's twin. Every time he approaches Earth, he will send scientists the information he has collected in the meantime.

Knowing what we know today about what lies beyond our solar system, estimates that "thousands" exoplanets will be discovered by TESS seem conservative.

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