Published: Wed, April 18, 2018
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Launch delay for Nasa's planet-hunting spacecraft

Launch delay for Nasa's planet-hunting spacecraft

NASA says it will be able to detect them when they periodically block part of the light from their host stars.

"TESS forms a bridge from what we have learned about exoplanets to date and where we are headed in the future", said Jeff Volosin, TESS project manager at Nasa's Goddard Spaceflight Center.

NASA's newest satellite is on scheduled to launch on the evening of Monday 16 April, 22:32 UTC.

The Tess mission will go up on a Falcon rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida and survey almost the entire sky over the course of the next two years. The mission is expected to create a database of thousands of new planet candidates that could increase the space agency's current figure of exoplanets.

After the appropriate maneuvers lasting about two months, the satellite telescope, which has a refrigerator size and weighs 318 kilos, will be placed in a highly elliptical orbit around the Earth, to which no other boat has ever been fitted.

It will take TESS just two years to survey nearly the entire sky, with the satellite to begin its search in the Southern Hemisphere sky before moving onto the Northern Hemisphere next year.

TESS-a spacecraft roughly the size of a washing machine-will search nearby bright stars for signs of planets.


But first, SpaceX has to get TESS safely to space. Four wide-field cameras will give Tess a field-of-view that covers 85 per cent of our entire sky.

And don't miss our in-depth coverage of TESS, how the telescope works, and why the mission could lead to groundbreaking discoveries in the search for habitable planets.

Once deployed, TESS will observe stars in our solar neighborhood to find potential exoplanet candidates. The mission will focus on planets circling bright stars that are less than 300 light-years from Earth.

"Transit photometry, which looks at how much light an object puts out at any given time, can tell researchers a lot about a planet. Looking at how long it takes a planet to orbit its star, scientists are able to determine the shape of the planet's orbit and how long it takes the planet to circle its sun".

The satellite, developed by scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the U.S., aims to discover thousands of nearby exoplanets, including at least 50 Earth-sized ones. Then, on regular intervals, the data on the identified planets will be transmitted back to Earth, which astronomers can use for follow-up studies.

TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is shown in this photo.

NASA's Dr Martin Still also said in a blog: "We expect to find a whole range of planet sizes between planets the size of Mercury or even the moon, our moon, to planets the same size as Jupiter and everything in between". NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, once launched in 2020 or so, will probe these planets' atmospheres for potential traces of life.

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