NASA’s planet hunting satellite to start looking for exoplanets

On April 18, NASA launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) into space, ready to start the hunt for new planets.One month into its mission, a test image showed TESS getting all starry-eyed, snapping a photo of over 200,000 stars in our galaxy as it underwent a commissioning period of testing and adjustments.

On Wednesday, NASA said the TESS spacecraft and its four cameras were “in good health” and that testing was continuing with the “goal of beginning science at the end of July.”When fully operational, TESS will be able to survey a region of the sky “400 times larger than that monitored by Kepler” breaking up space into 26 different sectors.

TESS will be aimed at those sectors for 27 days apiece, looking at the brightest stars in the sky, hunting for new planets.

Why stare at the stars? That’s how TESS locates planets. As a celestial orbit a star it dims the brightness of that star slightly.

If TESS is looking at the star, it will be able to detect this dimming in brightness — providing valuable information about a planet’s size, shape and how long it takes to circle its star.

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