NASA has recently launched a space telescope called TESS also known as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. TESS was launched aboard a SpaceX rocket called Falcon 9 on April 18, 2018. It is the size of a refrigerator. Its sole mission? To find exoplanets.
What are exoplanets? These are planets that orbit a star outside the solar system. They come in a wide variety of sizes, from gas giants larger than Jupiter to small, rocky planets about as big as Earth or Mars.
We cannot spot these exoplanets from Earth because they get hidden in the bright light of their host stars. During TESS’s 2 year mission it will not only find exoplanets but it will also search for planets that could support life. How exciting is that?!
So how will TESS conduct an alien planet hunt?
TESS has been designed to survey the sky and spot small changes in any star’s light. This happens when a planet is orbiting and passes between its own host star and the satellite TESS. Even a small planet will block out at least a little bit of its star’s light as it circles, and TESS should be able to see it when it does.
TESS has four powerful cameras which will take photos of the stars every 2 minutes. Hopefully this will give the scientists on Earth a movie like image of what happens when a planet is transiting it’s host star.
Caution: Don’t expect to find another Earth overnight. TESS will be on its quest for another two years and survey 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for transiting exoplanets. Like the popular Starship Enterprise lets hope TESS will boldly go where no man has gone before.
Written by: Shruti Divecha