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NASA launches planet-hunting mission 'TESS'

Apr 19, 2018 09:43 IST
NASA launches planet-hunting mission 'TESS'

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.

 TESS mission of NASA


The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

The mission

• 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.

 

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Significance

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.

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