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The alien hunting TESS telescope is your new favorite mission from NASA

On April 16, the last and largest NASA mission will launch into space.

The new space telescope is called TESS, short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, and has a pretty impressive job.

TESS goes hunting for alien planets.

The new mission, which has been in development for more than 10 years, could mark our first step towards the discovery of another planet outside our solar system that harbors life.

"TESS is opening the door to a new kind of study," Stephen Rinehart, TESS project scientist, said in a statement.

  TESS on Earth.

TESS on Earth.

"We will be able to study individual planets and begin to talk about the differences between planets.The objectives that TESS finds are going to be fantastic topics for research in the coming decades, it is the beginning of a new era of exoplanet research" .

Unlike other spacecraft exoplanet hunting, TESS is perfectly equipped to locate Earth-sized planets that surround stars in the "habitable zone," the part of the orbit of a star where liquid water could be held on the surface of a planet.

If a planet the size of the Earth is in the habitable zone of a star, it is at least theoretically possible for the planet to sustain life.

TESS is designed to look for these worlds around bright and relatively close stars, according to NASA.

The satellite will spend about two years inspecting the sky for signs of planets that vary in size from approximately Jupiter to Earth.

"It will help us answer a really important question, and that is: Which of our closest star neighbors has planets?" Elisa Quintana, a NASA astrophysicist, said in a video about the mission.

The satellite will find these worlds looking for small depressions in the brightness of a star that are created when a planet passes between or transits its host star. and the telescope. These transits allow scientists to determine the size of a planet, learn more about its atmosphere and even characterize its orbit.

TESS will help build on the legacy of the Kepler Space Telescope, another exoplanet search satellite that uses the same transit method that is still in space today.

Kepler changed our understanding of the galaxy by detecting 2,600 confirmed exoplanets that orbit stars 3,000 light-years away, NASA said.

"We learned from Kepler that there are more planets than stars in our sky, and now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars," Paul Hertz, director of the Division, said in the statement. of Astrophysics. .

While Kepler's main mission was to stare at a part of the sky, without losing sight of the worlds surrounding distant stars, TESS will inspect a large part of the sky, with a particular focus on nearby bright stars. [19659002] The data collected by TESS will also be used to help with the mission of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), when it is expected to launch into space in 2020.

The JWST, which is known as the successor of the Telescope Space Hubble, will be able to look into the atmospheres of exoplanets, finding out if the worlds could be habitable.

"We plan to follow the atmospheres with JWST and we have the ability to find water vapor and life signals through gases that do not belong and that could be attributed to life," said Sara Seager, an exoplanet hunter at MIT, email.

TESS is a particularly exciting time for exoplanet scientists today, but hopefully the public wants to get involved as well.

"Finding a planet never gets old," said Seager. "I hope that the public will share the discoveries with joy".

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