NASA's new planet-hunter to seek closer

Boring Company tunnel

Company tunnel beneath Hawthorne Calif. as of October 2017

At last count NASA's planet finder has helped identify 2400 alien planets of all sizes, including entire solar systems, orbiting faraway stars.

NASA's new planet hunting telescope promises to change that. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (dubbed TESS for short) is set to embark on a two-year mission to scour our cosmic neighborhood for potentially habitable worlds.

"You can go out on a dark night and you can see 6,000 stars or so in the sky with your naked eye", said Ricker.

So when a planet passes in front of its host star, the light will dim, Oluseyi said, and that's what TESS will be looking for - those dimming lights that astronomers call dips transits.

NASA Astrophysics director Paul Hertz has said TESS will up the ante for planet research once it reaches orbit. The satellite will observe the Southern hemisphere in the first year and the Northern in the second. NASA astronomers have already discovered thousands of exoplanets.

TESS will be able to find exoplanets, remote enough from their parent stars.

The planets found by TESS will be studied in depth by both scientists on Earth, as well as future space missions.

Kepler, Boyd said, was created to answer one question: how common are Earth-like planets orbiting in the habitable zones of sun-like stars.

Sun rays, passing through the atmosphere are partially absorbed by the molecules in it. "That's just not practical now". These are the most common stars out there in our galaxy, and they're extraordinarily long-lived - which could give life time to emerge and evolve. So far, there are almost 40 episodes, most well over an hour in length and featuring transcripts, to catch up on.

In total, TESS researchers hope that the refrigerator-sized satellite will be able to detect about 50 planets that might be similar in size to our Earth.

TESS will also take wide-field photos of a large portion of the sky every 30 minutes.

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"Thirty years ago, if you ask [ed] people, 'Do you think there are a lot of planets out there?' most people who knew anything about astronomy would say, 'Yeah, probably there are.' But nobody knew", said Shostak. These oscillations tell us how old stars are and what will happen to our Sun.

TESS, by contrast, will target stars that are less than 300 light-years away - and it will look in almost all directions.

On the other hand, scientist may overlook signs of life that is radically different from us.

A few worlds TESS finds may be small, rocky bodies like Earth.

Ricker said Tess will survey stars anywhere from 300 light-years to 500 light-years away.

TESS will find signals of planet candidates, Seager said.

Australian telescopes will play role in discoveriesUK Schmidt Telescope.

Combining that information with data gathered by telescopes on Earth scientists will be able to determine the make-up and mass of those planets.

After launch, SpaceX will aim to land the Falcon 9's first-stage booster on the deck of an autonomous landing ship stationed hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic Ocean.

It will be the most extensive survey of its kind from orbit, with Tess, a galactic scout, combing the neighbourhood as never before.

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