NASA’s TESS Spacecraft Begins its Search for New Worlds

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The space agency details how the mission will progress in the video above, including a visual of how TESS will survey the sky.

"I'm thrilled that our planet hunter is ready to start combing the backyard of our solar system for new worlds", Paul Hertz, director of NASA's Astrophysics division, said in the statement. For a satellite, that means more than a shower and a cup of coffee: It entails a commissioning period of testing and adjustmentsbefore scientists can truly rely upon the data being beamed back to Earth.

"Now that we know there are more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the odd, fantastic worlds we're bound to discover", Hertz added.

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TESS, which was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, is equipped with four wide-field cameras that will enable it to search for exoplanets over its two-year mission with the help of a phenomenon known as transit.

The TESS Science Team will begin searching the data for new planets immediately after the first series arrives. NASA expects TESS will find thousands of exoplanets during the course of its mission, with a particular focus on those around relatively nearby stars.

TESS is the latest weapon in NASA's arsenal that is built specifically to search for planets outside of our own Solar System, and it's an incredibly powerful device.

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The TESS mission aimed at monitoring the brightest and closest stars to Earth for periodic dips called transits in the light. Transits can be caused by a planet passing between the star and Earth, which accounts for the temporary flicker in their shine.

Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT's Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. In terms of participation, there are now over a dozen observatories and universities who are also keeping close tabs on the data obtained by TESS.

As of now, since the time of its inception in 2009, the Kepler space telescope has spotted more than 2,000 confirmed exoplanets. This region is easily monitored by the James Webb Space Telescope, which allows the two missions to work together to first find, and then carefully study exoplanets, expanding our understanding of worlds beyond our own.

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