NASA, in conjunction with SpaceX, will launch a new probe on Monday, April 16th. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, known as TESS, is being touted as NASA’s ‘planet hunter’. Its mission: to search for planets outside our solar system.
According to nasa.org, TESS is “expected to catalog thousands of planet candidates and vastly increase the current number of known exoplanets.” It’s a new first line in discovering exoplanets that could then be given focus for further study. Ultimately, the goal is to study exoplanets for their potential to harbor life, “giving future researchers a rich set of new targets for more comprehensive follow-up studies.” And, that is very exciting.
TESS will survey 200,000 of the brightest stars surrounding our sun for ‘transiting’ exoplanets. The transit method looks for dips in the light of the stars as planets pass by them in their orbits. The level and length of the dip in light can help scientists determine the size of a planet, and the shape and duration of its orbit. Ground-based telescopes will follow up TESS’s measurements by measuring the mass of exoplanets detected to make sure they are indeed planets, and to determine their composition. I know. It’s mind-blowing.
TESS will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Take a look at the NASA TV Schedule for when to watch the launch, and all of the preamble leading up to it! Let’s find some alien life!