FGCU Professor Attends Launch of TESS at Cape Canaveral

Clay Curtis
April 17, 2018

No satellites have been put into this orbit thus far.

So, how do you tune in to see SpaceX launch a NASA satellite that could find Earth 2.0?

The TESS will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

At the moment when the spacecraft launches, astronomers will know of almost 4,000 alien worlds outside our solar system. The expectation, by the time the mission is concluded, is that TESS will have looked at some 85 percent of the visible sky.

By following up on TESS's finds with other telescopes like the James Webb, scientists might be able to learn even more about the newfound worlds.

"By looking at such a large section of the sky - this kind of stellar real estate - we open up the ability to cherry-pick the best stars to do follow-up science", said Jenn Burt, a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

According to a NASA press release, TESS will orbit earth every 13.7 days, beaming back data when it passes closest to Earth.

NASA considers its TESS space mission to be a successor to the Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009.

The postponement was announced about two hours before the planned blast off from a NASA launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

JOB: Tess will scan nearly the entire sky during its $337 million mission, staring at hundreds of thousands, even millions of small, faint red dwarf stars. Repeated dips would indicate a planet passing in front of its star.

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An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star in any solar system other than the one Earth calls home. Is it light and water-rich?

The satellite's goal is to extend the successful mission of the Kepler Space Telescope by observing stars and monitoring them for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. The stars that TESS plans to survey will be 30 to 100 times brighter than those observed by its predecessor. That research could reveal "biosignatures" - molecules including oxygen and methane that are often generated by living organisms.

The first data from TESS is expected to be made public in July, and NASA says citizen astronomers are welcome to help study the planets.

"We have this whole army of observatories and astronomers on the ground waiting eagerly to be told, 'Here's a candidate, '" she said.

While TESS should be great at finding planets, it doesn't have the scientific firepower to analyze them.

When is the mission launch?

NASA has located solar systems beyond ours with thousands of planets that orbit other stars.

"We can start to find out, how does planet occurrence vary as a function of the type of star and the age of the star?" In addition, we can form a picture of what the inside of a star looks like.

For astronomers it has been very hard to find exoplanets in the past.

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