The new TESS planetary fighter space telescope TESS (Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite) has begun its search for undiscovered worlds, the government agency announced.
The spacecraft will search the sky and observe more than 200,000 nearby stars for new exoplanets – planets that lie beyond our solar system. Some of them could be in the habitable zone of their host star, in which case they would become targets for future missions that could assess their ability to harbor life.
The spacecraft is expected to return its first collection of scientific data in August and every 13.5 days thereafter, when it periodically reaches the point of its orbit closest to Earth. Once the first data set is obtained, TESS scientists will scour the information to identify signs of new planets.
"TESS will search 85 percent of our skies for exoplanets orbiting bright stars and our nearest stellar neighbors," Martin Still, NASA's headquarters program scientist for TESS, told Newsweek . "It will allow us to use other telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, to track planetary identifications and then better explore the properties of these planets."
TESS, equipped with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, is equipped with four wide-field cameras that allow it to search for exoplanets through its biennial mission using a phenomenon known as transit. This is the case when a planet passes (in the eyes of an observer) in front of its star and causes a regular and regular brightness collapse.
Astronomers often use this method to identify the presence of planets. NASA's Kepler spacecraft has thus identified more than 2,600 confirmed exoplanets. [1