NASA's Planet-Hunter TESS Captures Its First Science Images | Astronomy


NASA anticipates TESS discovering "thousands" of exoplanets using this method, and it can already cross two off that list: it has discovered one exoplanet about 50 light-years away and another at 60 light-years.

TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is shown in this conceptual illustration obtained by Reuters on March 28, 2018.

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Although the discovery has yet to be reviewed by other scientists to validate it, the preliminary analysis suggests that Pi Mensae c, the newly found exoplanet, is around four times as massive as Earth and contains a substantial portion of lighter materials - such as water, methane, hydrogen, and helium - in addition to a rocky/iron core. Taken last August, it covers a swath of the Southern Sky showing stars and constellations and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, which are nearby galaxies in their own right, hanging like extragalactic fruit in nearby space. Both stars are so bright that they show up as vertical lines of white in images picked up by TESS' second and fourth cameras. It is planned that TESS for two years, explores the 26 sectors, each of which will be for 27 days. From a satellite's perspective, this results in a decrease in the star's brightness.

The crucial difference between Kepler and TESS is the regions of space they observe. The brightness of TESS' targets make them ideal candidates for follow-up study with spectroscopy, the study of how matter and light interact. NASA stated that TESS, the "first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances".

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TESS has also started observations requested through the TESS Guest Investigator Program, a program which invites scientists to conduct research using the satellite. The other day TESS sent the first scientific image of the area of the night sky in the southern hemisphere.

"The science community is chomping at the bit to see the wonderful data that TESS will produce and the exciting science discoveries for exoplanets and beyond". If the drops occur at predictable intervals, it can indicate there's an exoplanet passing in front of the star. "The science community are chomping at the bit to see the incredible data that TESS will produce and the exciting science discoveries for exoplanets and beyond".

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The data is then further processed and studied in the Science Processing and Operations Center pipeline at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California in order to hopefully locate promising exoplanet transit candidates.