Saturday, 17 April, 2021


How to watch SpaceX launch NASA's new planet-hunting satellite today

How to watch SpaceX launch NASA's new planet-hunting satellite today How to watch SpaceX launch NASA's new planet-hunting satellite today
Noah Ferguson | 17 April, 2018, 16:40

While there has been no official confirmation from NASA or SpaceX of the new launch time, the 45th Space Wing (responsible for the Eastern Range) issued a forecast (PDF) for 2251 UTC on 18 April predicting a less than a 10 per cent chance of weather causing problems.

The two-year, $337 million TESS mission is created to build on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, which has discovered the bulk of some 3,700 exoplanets documented during the past 20 years and is running out of fuel.

The satellite known as Tess will survey nearly the entire sky, staring at the brightest, closest stars in an effort to find any planets that might be encircling them.

A private sector space transportation firm founded and run by Tesla's Elon Musk, SpaceX has conducted launches for NASA in the past as well.

The spacecraft, not much larger than a refrigerator, carries four cameras that will survey the nearest, brightest stars in the sky for signs of passing planets.

TESS will look for dips in the visible light of stars for detecting exoplanets as they cross in front of stars along our line of sight to them.

"But since then, we have found thousands of planets orbiting others stars and we think all the stars in our galaxy must have their own family of planets".

This will reveal whether the planets are rocky (like Earth), gas giants (like Jupiter) or something even more unusual.

"This is the reason we're all so excited", said Jessie Christiansen, an astronomer at Caltech and NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute who sits on the steering committee for TESS's follow-up working group. "Those small stars will produce the biggest signals, and we have to start somewhere", says Angus, who remains hopeful about what could be found. The satellite will fly with the Falcon for 44 minutes before being ejected on to a highly elliptical path around Earth. In addition, we can form a picture of what the inside of a star looks like.

In addition to its search for exoplanets, TESS will allow scientists from the wider community to request targets for astrophysics research on approximately 20,000 additional objects during the mission through its Guest Investigator programme.

"TESS is going to dramatically increase the number of planets that we have to study", said Ricker.

"We can imagine an armada of nano-satellites that will be sweeping out from the Earth to send back information", he said.

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