NASA's Planet-Hunter TESS Captures Its First Science Images | Astronomy

Rodiano Bonacci
Settembre 21, 2018

NASA's planet-hunting satellite will remain in action for at least another two years, so hopefully, this first image is really just the first of many.

'First light' science images from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) show a wealth of stars and other objects, including stellar systems previously known to have exoplanets.

The image, which was snapped on August 7 over a 30 minute period, captured dozens of constellations, including Capricornus and Pictor, and both the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, according to NASA's release on the photo.

"In a sea of stars brimming with new worlds, TESS is casting a wide net and will haul in a bounty of promising planets for further study", Paul Hertz, NASA's astrophysics division director, said in the release.

TESS also captured the likes of NGC 104, a spherical collection of hundreds of thousands of stars that includes Beta Gruis and R Doradus. The image above is just a portion of the full image - the bright part on the right is the Large Magellanic Cloud, while the bright star R Doradus is on the left.

"These first light science images show the capabilities of TESS' cameras, and show that the mission will realize its incredible potential in our search for another Earth".

"This swath of the sky's southern hemisphere includes more than a dozen stars we know have transiting planets based on previous studies from ground observatories", said TESS principal investigator Dr. George Ricker, a researcher at MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.

TESS will scan a much larger region of the sky than Kepler did - and one that is closer to Earth.

TESS builds on the legacy of NASA's Kepler spacecraft, which also uses transits to find exoplanets.

Scientists hope TESS will find about 50 small, rocky planets that could be habitable to alien life.

Over the next year, TESS will take frequent images of the southern sky, rotating its narrow view once every month.

TESS is scheduled to monitor 85 percent of the sky in two years, studying the 13 sectors making up the southern sky in its first year and the other half in the second.

TESS's target stars are 30 to 300 light-years away and about 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler's targets, which are 300 to 3,000 light-years away. But this is only the first discovered exoplanet out of the thousands that TESS will find over the next few years.

To hunt for planets, the telescope will look for changes in a star's brightness level - an indication that a planet is passing in front of the star as part of its orbit.

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