On Monday, April 16th NASA will be launching its most powerful telescope to date. It will be sending up the telescope on a Space X Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This mission is part of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) project. TESS is being hailed as the next step in the search for planets outside of our solar system that could support life. In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, TESS will monitor the brightness of stars for periodic drops caused by planet transits. The TESS mission is expected to find planets ranging from small, rocky worlds to giant planets.
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is undergoing final preparations in Florida for its April 16 launch to find undiscovered worlds around nearby stars. This un-paralleled survey of the sky will provide researchers targets for future studies that assess the capacity to harbor life.
— NASA_TESS (@NASA_TESS) April 13, 2018
This will be the first space borne mission to search nearly the entire sky for exoplanets. You might remember NASA’s Kepler missions or it may at least ring a bell. TESS will expand on the Kepler mission’s by targeting closer, brighter stars, where follow-up observations are easier to make. NASA’s Kepler mission kept its telescope constantly fixed on one small section of the sky during its mission. Kepler’s goal was primarily to determine the frequency of exoplanets. The TESS survey will search an area some 350 times larger, covering more than 85 percent of the sky over two years.
The TESS mission will share data with the Webb and Hubble space telescopes back on earth. The ground-based observatories will be able to observe specific properties, such as mass, density and atmospheric composition in greater detail.
TESS is led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and Principal Investigator Dr. George Ricker. TESS team partners also include NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, Orbital ATK, NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI).