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Nasa all set to launch new planet hunting mission TESS

17 April 2018

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is scheduled to launch Monday at 6:32 pm (2232 GMT) atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

All being well, NASA is set to make its TESS launch later today from Cape Canaveral on board a Space X Falcon 9 rocket.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, will look for dips in brightness coming from distant stars, a sign that planets are crossing the stars in orbit.

Nasa predicts that TESS could find more than 50 Earth-sized planets and up to 500 planets less than twice the size of the Earth.

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It will take TESS just two years to survey nearly the entire sky, with the satellite to begin its search in the Southern Hemisphere sky before moving onto the Northern Hemisphere next year.

The spacecraft, not much larger than a refrigerator, carries four cameras that will survey the nearest, brightest stars in the sky for signs of passing planets.

It promises an ability to resolve the atmospheres of some of the new worlds, to look for gases that might hint at the presence of life. "It is going to more than double the number that have been seen and detected by Kepler". "Looking at how long it takes a planet to orbit its star, scientists are able to determine the shape of the planet's orbit and how long it takes the planet to circle its sun".

A private sector space transportation firm founded and run by Tesla's Elon Musk, SpaceX has conducted launches for NASA in the past as well.

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NASA calls TESS its "next step" in discovering exoplanets - a planet that orbits a star in any solar system other than the one Earth calls home - "including those that could support life".

"Tess will tell us where and when to point", said Cheops' Esa project scientist, Kate Isaak.

"We can measure the stars' fundamental properties".

If all goes well with the launch and calibration phases of the mission, the first haul of new planets found by TESS could be announced later this year. That is still too far away for humans to visit, but George Ricker, the Tess principal investigator from MIT, seems confident that technologies will emerge this century to allow robotic probes to reach some of his satellite's discoveries in a reasonable timeframe. "TESS is kind of like a scout", said Natalia Guerrero, deputy manager of TESS Objects of Interest, an MIT-led effort that will catalogue objects captured in TESS data that may be potential exoplanets.

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Nasa all set to launch new planet hunting mission TESS