Monday, April 8, 2013

NASA approves next generation exoplanet survey satellite

NASA has given the go-ahead for a $200 million mission called Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to hunt for exoplanets around nearby stars. TESS will built upon the work of the Kepler Space Telescope which to date has discovered 2740 exoplanets by detecting the dip in starlight from nearby stars as the planets travel in front of the star (or rather the face of the star facing us).

While Kepler works well it is restricted to a small portion of space (0.28% of the sky) while TESS will be able to survey all of the sky using an array of telescopes and should be able to detect many more exoplanets. The key goal of TESS will be to hunt for planets which have similar conditions to Earth and maybe could contain life. TESS will launch in 2017.
Image credit: D. Aguilar/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

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