April 16, 2018

SPACE: NASA’s TESS Satellite Will Supercharge Search for Nearby, Earth-Like Worlds.

TESS is designed to find planets orbiting nearby stars spread across the sky, astrophysicist and pioneering exoplanet researcher Sara Seager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told Space.com. The satellite is not specifically intended to look for planets that can support life, but it can find planets orbiting in the habitable zone of small stars, said Seager, who serves as a deputy science director on TESS.

TESS will find signals of planet candidates, Seager said. A lot of follow-up work will go into determining whether these candidates are truly planets, rather than binary stars, artifacts in the data or something else. Once this is accomplished, deeper investigation can begin. Unlike with Kepler, the stars TESS examines will be bright enough and close enough to allow detailed follow-up studies with large ground telescopes, the Hubble Space Telescope and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.

It’s scheduled to go up today on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and you can watch the launch live here.