This is how NASA's TESS will hunt for alien planets

NASA's New Satellite Will Search For Undiscovered Exoplanets

NASA's New Planet Hunter TESS Set To Launch Monday

Unfortunately, we can't really see them, we just know they are there.

The NASA-funded spaceship is not larger than a refrigerator and has four cameras that were designed, conceived, and built at MIT, with a single wide-eyed vision, which is to survey the nearest and brightest stars in the sky for the signs of passing planets.

However, NASA's TESS - short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite - is expected to change that after it launches to orbit on Monday.

LISTEN: 90.7's Brendan Byrne explains star winks and the hunt for alien worlds.

"We're on this scenic tour of the whole sky, and in some ways we have no idea what we will see". As evidence of this fact, in 2016 Kepler confirmed the presence of 1,284 new planets just in the tiny patch of sky it was looking at.

TESS, or the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is a device with which NASA is going to look for exoplanets that could host life.

In particular, TESS will home in on stars called M-dwarfs or red dwarfs.

But if Kepler was a telephoto aimed at dim targets far in the distance, TESS is an ultra-wide-angle lens that will watch almost the entire visible sky.

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"Kepler took a poll of stars in the galaxy to find out what planets they harbor", said Natalie Batalha, Kepler's project scientist at NASA Ames Research Center.

"For the 30-minute images, people are excited about maybe seeing supernovae, asteroids, or counterparts to gravitational waves". "There's technical astrophysical issues that will interest a lot of the scientists in the community", said Latham, "but I think that the question that is going to catch the attention of the educated public is this big one: Are we alone?"

"We should be able to find 20,000 planets of all sizes ranging from Jupiter-sized planets to planets the size of Earth or even the size of Mars".

The satellite will keep an eye out for potentially habitable worlds circling stars that are somewhat smaller and dimmer than our own sun. Guerrero said that the TESS team is working on the ways to share those findings publicly. "So it's got to be there somewhere". Ricker said Tess will survey stars anywhere from 300 light-years to 500 light-years away.

"There are so many things that TESS may find that are related to exoplanets and phenomenon we know already", he said.

Artist's illustration of TESS in space. Much like NASA's Kepler space observatory, TESS will use its high-spec tech to pinpoint undiscovered planets. According to NASA, a set of experiments for the Micro-11 project is to fill the existing gap, as it's still unclear how long spaceflights influence human reproductive health, particularly sperm quality.

TESS is NASA's next step in the search for planets outside of our solar system, known as exoplanets, including those that could support life.

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