NASA's new TESS satellite just took its first test photo, and scientists hope it will help them find thousands of exoplanets.
NASA’s new planet-hunting satellite has just taken its first test images, and the picture shows just what this new platform is capable of. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will be responsible for searching the skies for thousands of exoplanets that may be similar to Earth and help in our quest to find life outside of our solar system.
The picture taken that you see above is not science-quality, but it provides a glimpse of what TESS can do. TESS will be able to snap photos that cover 400 times the area you see in the this shot, which shows the star field around the Centaurus constellation.
The photo was taken with a 2-second exposure and it includes more than 200,000 stars. It was taken with one of four cameras on the satellite. The satellite will watch these star fields and check for stars that dim briefly, indicating the presence of a planet orbiting in front of it.
“The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an Explorer-class planet finder,” reads a NASA statement. “In the first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey, TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, orbiting a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. The principal goal of the TESS mission is to detect small planets with bright host stars in the solar neighborhood, so that detailed characterizations of the planets and their atmospheres can be performed.
“TESS will monitor the brightnesses of more than 200,000 stars during a two year mission, searching for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. Transits occur when a planet’s orbit carries it directly in front of its parent star as viewed from Earth. TESS is expected to catalog more than 1,500 transiting exoplanet candidates, including a sample of ∼500 Earth-sized and ‘Super Earth’ planets, with radii less than twice that of the Earth. TESS will detect small rock-and-ice planets orbiting a diverse range of stellar types and covering a wide span of orbital periods, including rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their host stars.”