Monday, 22 October, 2018

NASA's New Planet Hunter Begins Its Search for Alien Worlds

NASA's New Planet Hunter Begins Its Search for Alien Worlds An artist's depiction of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite at work. Credit NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Frank Williams | 01 August, 2018, 17:26

The satellite, named Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) started its mission last week and the American space agency said that Earth will receive first information from it as soon as August.

"Now that we know there are more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the odd, fantastic worlds we're bound to discover", Paul Hertz, NASA's Division of Science Mission Directorate's director of the Astrophysics, said in a statement.

NASA's new planet hunting satellite is getting to work. For a satellite, that means more than a shower and a cup of coffee: It entails a commissioning period of testing and adjustmentsbefore scientists can truly rely upon the data being beamed back to Earth.

"With possibly more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the odd, fantastic worlds we're bound to discover", said Hertz. NASA expects TESS will find thousands of exoplanets during the course of its mission, with a particular focus on those around relatively nearby stars.

Iran rules out meeting with Trump
But with the U.S. about to reimpose full sanctions, starting on August 6, many in Iran are uninterested in his latest volte-face. On Monday, he declared that he would be willing to meet Rouhani without preconditions to discuss how to improve relations.

Illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star.

Some planets TESS spots will likely become targets for follow-up study by NASA's much-delayed James Webb Space Telescope, which will be able to study the atmospheres of those planets and begin characterizing them in more detail than TESS can manage.

The satellite makes its way around the Earth once every two weeks or so (13.5 days to be exact) and each time it completes and orbit it'll send back a wealth of science data. It will spend the next two years rocketing through the cold reaches of space, training an array of cameras and monitors on the darkness - and looking for the periodic dips in light that suggest the presence of planets against the fiery brightness of the stars they orbit. Over the course of the mission the satellite will study 85 per cent of the sky- an area 350 times greater than what NASA's Kepler mission first observed-making it the first exoplanet mission to survey almost the entire sky.

The spacecraft is fitted with four powerful cameras each having a 16.8-megapixel sensor which cover a square 24-degrees wide, large enough to contain an entire constellation. According to a video posted to YouTube by NASA Goddard (below), that is an area 350 times greater than what was first observed by the Kepler missions. A new telescope developed by mit and NASA, was launched into space on 19 April 2018.

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