Published: Fri, April 13, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

NASA's new exoplanet-hunting telescope set to launch on Monday

NASA's new exoplanet-hunting telescope set to launch on Monday

Kathryn's already taken part in several space projects, including following British astronaut Tim Peake's mission on the International Space Station, listening to amateur radio signals from space, and having some code running on a Raspberry Pi computer aboard the ISS.

Then, return on Monday, April 16, first at 10 a.m. EDT for a live 30 minute show NASA EDGE: TESS, which will discuss how the spacecraft will search for alien worlds, and then at 6 p.m. EDT for coverage of the 6:32 p.m. EDT launch. The propulsion systems were installed earlier this year on the cruise and descent stage, NASA officials said.

After the launch, SpaceX will land its rocket's first stage core on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

"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", said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator. The spacecraft will scan nearly the entire sky searching for planets transiting, or passing, in front of their stars. TESS will scan an area 350 times greater than Kepler. NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley manages the investigation, called Micro-11, aboard SpaceX's 14 cargo resupply services mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

The satellite, developed by scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA, aims to discover thousands of nearby exoplanets, including at least 50 Earth-sized ones. NASA's mission Kepler spacecraft had used the same technique and spotted about 2,600 confirmed exoplanets.

"At this point in the study, we're using the logistical lessons learned from the first three deployments to execute what is needed to fill in the last piece of the science puzzle about what drives the accumulation phase for phytoplankton growth", Moore said. It was the question that astronauts have long said they are in zero gravity go to the toilet. Kepler and TESS have a different, but similar approach, to do that.

When NASA launches its James Webb Space Telescope in 2020 the two missions will work together to tell us more about these new worlds. This involves watching a star for dips in its light as a planet passes between the star and the telescope.

TESS will spend two years scanning almost the entire sky - a field of view that can encompass more than 20 million stars.

Many of TESS's planets should be close enough to our own that, once they are identified by TESS, scientists can zoom in on them using other telescopes, to detect atmospheres, characterize atmospheric conditions, and even look for signs of habitability.

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