The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on April 19, 2018 launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the first-of-its-kind mission to discover planets outside the solar system, including some that could support life.
TESS was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
TESS will settle into a 13.7-day orbit around Earth with the help of a gravitational assist from the Moon.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
• TESS will use six thruster burns to travel in a series of gradually extended orbits to reach the Moon, which will provide a gravitational assist so that TESS.
• The spacecraft will, in actual, begin its work after about 60 days of instrument testing.
• Once put into the orbit, TESS will spend around two years, surveying some 200000 of the brightest stars near the Sun in search of planets.
• For this two-year mission, the scientists divided the sky into 26 segments that Tess will observe one by one.
• 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.
• TESS is fixed with four wide-field cameras for a field-of-view that covers 85 per cent of entire sky.
• The satellite will also be looking for a phenomenon called ‘Transit’, wherein a planet passing in front of its star, causes a periodic and regular dip in the star's brightness.
The exoplanets discovered by TESS will help future researchers to conduct more comprehensive follow-up studies and to assess the capacity of these planets to harbour life.
Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
• The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission operated by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.
• George Ricker, of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, is the Principal Investigator for the mission.
• The four wide-field cameras of TESS were developed by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory.