SpaceX Launches NASA Satellite To Search For Alien Worlds

Audrey Hill
April 20, 2018

A tweet from SpaceX, which operates the Falcon 9 rocket set to take the satellite to space, indicated that delays were required to conduct analysis of the rocket's guidance, navigation and control system. As the first-ever exoplanet satellite to perform a survey of the entire sky, TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to Jupiter-sized, orbiting a wide range of stellar types and in various orbital regimes.

Much like the Kepler telescope, says Sky News, Tess scans for "Earth-like" planets that are close enough to our own for scientists to study, particularly worlds that are the ideal distance from their central star to contain life. Those stars TESS will study are 30 to 100 times brighter than those the Kepler mission and K2 follow-up surveyed, enabling far easier follow-up observations with both ground-based and space-based telescopes. But he said there was something new happening with the current mission - SpaceX planned to fire the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket to kick it out of orbit, so that it doesn't become space trash in orbit.

TESS will pick up the search for exoplanets as the Kepler Space Telescope runs out of fuel. The moon's gravity will help get the satellite in the right orbit and keep it there. The Falcon 9 reached its point of maximum stress one minute and 16 seconds into the launch with the main engine shutting down at the two-minute-29-second mark. Like with other satellites, imagery from TESS will be used to analyze the possible characteristics of planets and their atmospheres.

It has been designed as a successor to the Kepler space observatory.

"The targets TESS finds are going to be fantastic subjects for research for decades to come", said Stephen Rinehart, TESS project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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"The stories of these planets will continue on, long after their detection", Dr Martin Still, TESS programme scientist, said on Wednesday.

Like Kepler, TESS is created to locate exoplanets by searching for what astronomers call transits. A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of its star from the observer's perspective, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star's brightness.

"TESS will tell us where to look at and when to look", Mr Ricker said.

There are already 3,700 exoplanets that we know of, with another 4,500 on the not-yet-verified list.

While Kepler has focused on stars thousands of light-years away, Tess will concentrate on our stellar neighbors, dozens or hundreds of light-years away. She and the team would be excited to see "hot super-Earths that may have liquid lava lakes or water worlds that may be 50% or more by mass water-like scaled up versions of Jupiter's icy moons-or even rocky worlds of all different kinds".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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