NASA’s exoplanet-hunting TESS space telescope (short for “Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite”) wrapped up its two-year primary venture on July 4, having found out 66 confirmed and nearly 2,100 “candidates” that scientists nonetheless need to vet, NASA officials stated. alien planets TESS continues to review the heavens, on the other hand, on an extended mission that runs through September 2022.
Artist’s illustration of NASA’s TESS spacecraft studying an exoplanet system. (Image credit: MIT)
“TESS is generating a torrent of top quality observations providing valuable data across a wide range of science topics,” Patricia Boyd, the project scientist for TESS at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland,
“As it enters its extended mission, TESS is already a roaring good fortune.” said in a statement.
TESS launched to Earth orbit in April 2018 and started its science work three months later. The probe hunts for alien worlds using the “
,” monitoring stars for tiny brightness dips brought about by orbiting worlds crossing their faces. transit approach
This same strategy was used to great effect by TESS’ predecessor, NASA’s pioneering
. Kepler, which was declared dead in October 2018, found about two-thirds of the 4,200 exoplanets found out thus far. (Kepler finds are still rolling in; scientists continue to pore over the spacecraft’s huge data set, which has more than 3,000 further applicants that require further analysis.) Kepler space telescope
TESS uses four cameras to study 24-by-96-degree sectors of the sky for about one month at a time. (Your clenched fist held at arm’s length covers about 10 degrees of sky, for reference.) The probe spent the first year of its primary mission scrutinizing sectors in the southern sky, then switched to the northern sky in its second year.
The planet-hunting craft managed to cover about 75% of the sky during its two-year primary mission, NASA officials said.
The extended mission will feature the same order, with TESS focusing on the southern sky for the first 12 months before shifting to the northern sky. During that second year, the probe will also observe areas around the ecliptic, the plane of Earth’s orbit around the sun.
TESS’s primary mission yielded many thrilling finds, including an Earth-sized planet called that orbits in its star’s habitable zone, the range of distances where liquid water could be stable on a world’s surface. But the extended mission may be even more fruitful because the TESS team has made some improvements over the past two years.
The probe’s “cameras now capture a full image each and every 10 minutes, three times faster than during the primary mission,” NASA officials wrote in the same statement. “A new rapid mode permits the brightness of thousands of stars to be measured every 20 seconds, along with the previous method of collecting those observations from tens of thousands of stars every two minutes.”
The finances for TESS’s primary mission was capped at $200 million, not including launch costs, which added another $87 million. The extended mission won’t add too much to the overall price tag. For example, the extended-mission operations of NASA’s New Horizons Pluto probe, which started in 2017, have cost lower
, on top of a prime-mission price tag of about $780 million. than $15 million per year