The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, will soon join NASA’s fleet of exoplanet-hunters that, so far, includes the Kepler, Hubble, and the Spitzer Space Telescopes.
TESS was launched at 2251 UTC on April 18, 2018, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The space observatory is expected to survey about 85% of the sky over a planned 2-year mission.
For the first year, mission scientists, using TESS’s four unique wide-field cameras, will study and map the southern sky, which will be divided into 13 sectors.
The second year will be devoted to doing the same with the northern sky, with observations again split into 13 sectors.
Like the Kepler and K2 missions, TESS will spot exoplanets by using the transit method.
With this system, the spacecraft will look for any slight and temporary dip in a targeted star’s brightness. The drop in brightness indicates that an object such as a planet is passing in front of it.
According to the space agency, more than 78% of the more than 3,700 confirmed exoplanets have been found using the transit method.
NASA says that once TESS settles into its planned orbit, the mission crew will put it through 60 days of check-out and instrument testing and then will be put to work hunting for worlds beyond our solar system.
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