Next Generation Exoplanet Hunter to Launch in 2017
NASA has selected a $200 million mission to carry out a full-sky survey for exoplanets orbiting nearby stars. The space observatory, called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is scheduled for a 2017 launch.
Like the currently operational Kepler Space Telescope, TESS will be in the lookout for exoplanets that orbit in front of their host stars, resulting in a slight dip in starlight. This dip is known as a “transit” and Kepler has revolutionized our understanding about planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy by applying this effective technique. As of January 2013, Kepler has spotted 2,740 exoplanetary candidates.
TESS will be surveying the entire sky, supercharging our profound quest to understand how many stars like our own could host worlds, not too dissimilar to Earth, in their habitable zones.
“TESS will carry out the first space-borne all-sky transit survey, covering 400 times as much sky as any previous mission,” said TESS lead scientist George Ricker, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research (MKI).
“It will identify thousands of new planets in the solar neighborhood, with a special focus on planets comparable in size to the Earth.”
“The TESS legacy will be a catalog of the nearest and brightest main-sequence stars hosting transiting exoplanets, which will forever be the most favorable targets for detailed investigations,” added Ricker.
a NASA announcement on Friday, “The mission will utilize an array of telescopes to perform an all-sky survey to discover transiting exoplanets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, in orbit around the nearest and brightest stars in the sky. Its goal is to identify terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars.”
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