Equipped with four specialized cameras, TESS will be able to gaze at 85 percent of the entire sky, according to reports.
The TESS satellite will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and will hunt for new exoplanets to determine if they could harbor life. But most of the time, we can't see them.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the heir to NASA's Kepler exoplanet mission throne, is set to orbit Earth while pointing it's viewfinders out to space.
"We expect TESS will discover a number of planets whose atmospheric compositions, which hold potential clues to the presence of life, could be precisely measured by future observers". The deputy manager of the TESS Objects of Interest project, Natalia Guerrero said that a lot of the stars that Kepler found exoplanets around were extremely faint and really far away that made them really hard to follow up on from the ground, hence, TESS came about to be even more useful to the broader astronomical community. Together, the cameras will stare at a vertical strip of the celestial sphere stretching from the pole to the equator, proceeding to a new strip every 27 days. The spacecraft will scan our solar neighborhood looking for stars that exhibit "temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits", which is a sign that a previously undiscovered planet may be crossing in front of a star, NASA's website explains.
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These planets will be some of our closest neighbours, orbiting stars we can actually see when we look up at the sky. "TESS will cast a wider net than ever before for enigmatic worlds".
While looking for the exoplanets, TESS would also witness other unrelated phenomena, such as possible supernovae or the other fast-changing objects.
Kepler, who has discovered over 4500 planets and exoplanets, was placed on the Earth's orbit in 2009. Starting with the southern hemisphere, the survey will take two years to complete, covering an area 400 times greater than Kepler.
"TESS is the natural next step, by searching for planets near our very nearby bright stars so that we can do the follow up measurements partly that Paul was talking about and by doing those measurements we hope to actually identify all the world's we've been dreaming about", said Sara Seager, TESS Deputy Director of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Presently, more than a decade since the MIT scientists initially proposed the mission, TESS is about to get off the ground.
This stable 13.7 day "lunar resonant" orbit, which has never been tried before, should allow TESS to operate for well beyond two years, said Professor Ricker. "The TESS planets are going to be the ones you're going to look at".