The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a new planet-hunting spacecraft onboard of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Carnival, Florida, US. TESS mission is designed to carry out first spaceborne all-sky transiting exoplanet survey.
Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
The TESS mission is led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. It is designed to find potential planets orbiting stars close to Earth. It will identify such planets by spotting decreased brightness of stars after planet passes in front of it.
The primary mission objective of TESS is to survey brightest stars near Earth for transiting exoplanets over two-year period. It will use array of wide-field cameras to perform all-sky survey. It will create catalog of thousands of exoplanet candidates using transit photometry method.
TESS observatory weighs just 362 kilograms. It has four wide-view cameras surrounded by sun shade to monitor any dips in brightness from target stars. Repeated dips will indicate a planet passing in front of its star. TESS has no instruments capable of detecting life. Its main job is to find and characterize planets that will become main targets of future telescopes.
With help of TESS, it will be possible to study mass, size, density and orbit of large cohort of small planets, including sample of rocky worlds in habitable zones (goldilocks zone) of their host stars. This will reveal whether planets are rocky (like Earth), gas or jovian giants (like Jupiter) or something even more unusual.