All-sky Exoplanet Survey

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was designed as the first all-sky survey focusing on the closest and brightest 500,000 stars to Earth to look for exoplanets via the transit-method. The Earth orbiting satellite launched on March 20th 2018 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The TESS mission is planned to last 2 years, surveying the northern celestial sphere in the first year and the southern sphere in its second year.

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The TESS Satellite Fast Summary Facts

  • Type:  Space Telescope
  • Destination:  Elliptical Earth orbit
  • Status:  Active
  • Launch Location:  Cape Canaveral, Florida
  • Launch Date:  March 20th 2018    
  • Mission Duration:  Planned 2 years

Quick Fun Facts About The TESS Satellite!

The NASA/MIT TESS mission was designed to be the first all-sky transiting exoplanet survey, covering an area 400 times larger than the famous exoplanet hunting Kepler mission.

TESS will attempt to locate exoplanets by recording tiny periodic dips in the brightness of the star caused by the planets transit. From the characteristics of the dip, and information known about the star, the planets orbit, size and temperature can be calculated.

TESS will focus on about 500,000 of the closest, and brightest, main sequence stars to Earth to identify future targets for follow up analysis by missions like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Particular focus is placed on detecting Earth-sized planets in our neighbourhood, with TESS expected to discover more than 3,000 exoplanet candidates!

  • The missions search area will map the northern hemisphere of the celestial sphere (sky) in its first year of operation and the southern hemisphere in its second year.
  • The exoplanet hunting satellite is equipped with four wide-angle telescopes and the associated 16.8 megapixel cameras.
  • The TESS spacecraft was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and weighed 350 kilograms (772 lbs) when launched.
  • TESS’s Earth-centred orbit has never been used before, orbiting with a 2:1 lunar resonance (within the orbit of the Moon). It is highly elliptical with a period of 13.7 days and will remain stable for decades.
  • The spacecrafts two small solar panels will generate 400 watts of electricity to run the satellite.
  • The cost of building TESS was only USD $75 million with a further USD $87 million for launch services.
 
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TESSatellite - Artist concept of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. (Image Credit: NASA)
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