Are we alone? Nasa's new planet hunter aims to find out

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The spacecraft will monitor the brightness of over 200,000 stars in order to see if any get dimmer, which could indicate that they have orbiting planets, according to NASA.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) may find thousands of worlds relatively close to Earth.

The TESS mission is to find planets outside of our solar system, known as exoplanets.

SpaceX postponed the launch of NASA's new planet-hunting mission Monday in order to verify the Falcon 9 rocket's navigation systems, the California-based company said.

The satellite will be capable of detecting planets ranging from the size of Earth to gas giants.

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Once deployed, TESS will observe stars in our solar neighborhood to find potential exoplanet candidates.

Further follow-ups on potentially habitable planets could be done using more powerful telescopes, such as NASA's yet-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope, which is created to analyze alien atmospheres and help scientists look for potential signs of life.

Life might be out there, whether microbial or more advanced, and scientists say Tess and later missions will help answer the age-old question of whether we're alone.

The satellite itself is not much bigger than a refrigerator.

In 24 months, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (Tess) should have sampled 85 percent of the heavens, taking in some 500,000 stars - many of which will be among the nearest and brightest in the sky.

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"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 Centre. A science team devoted to TESS at MIT aims to measure the masses of at least 50 small exoplanets that have a radius of less than four times that of Earth - an ideal dimension that could suggest habitability. "So mass and size together give us an average planet density, which tells us a huge amount about what the planet is". Scientists were allowed to name around 20,000 objects and Tess will provide data on them.

"TESS is kind of like a scout", said Natalia Guerrero, deputy manager of TESS Objects of Interest.

"There need to be things that inspire you, that make you glad to wake up in the morning and be part of humanity", Musk said in March. As Harrison Tasoff at reports, researchers have a list of molecules they are searching for in the data. "That's the equivalent of about 6,500 song files beaming down to Earth every two weeks". It will search for planets that might have signs of life.

Scientists will be specifically looking for signatures of life, such as water vapor, oxygen, methane, and more.

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