NASA’s new exoplanet hunter Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will begin its search for alien worlds before the end of July if everything goes according to plan. TESS was launched to the Earth’s orbit on April 18 this year onboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
According to NASA officials, TESS is still undergoing commissioning tests aimed at optimizing the spacecraft’s performance. Once the tests are over, it will likely commence its search for planets outside our solar system in the end of July.
“The TESS team has reported that the spacecraft and cameras are in good health, and the spacecraft has successfully reached its final science orbit,” NASA officials said.”The team continues to conduct tests in order to optimize spacecraft performance, with a goal of beginning science at the end of July.”
TESS was expected to begin conducting science operations in mid-June, but it got delayed by almost six weeks. The new exoplanet search probe will use the transitory method to detect planets. It will study thousands of stars in the Universe and identify variations in their brightness caused by planets passing in front of them.
It’s the same exoplanet detection method that has been used by the renowned Kepler Space Telescope which has found about 70 per cent of the approximately 4,000 exoplanets discovered to date. The Kepler telescope will soon become obsolete once it runs out of fuel in a couple of months.
Most importantly, the Kepler space telescope successor will compile information related to so-called exoplanets that other telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope can focus on for more detailed analysis. The four wide-field astronomical cameras will enable TESS to conduct a broad sky survey covering about 85 percent of the sky.
TESS is expected to stay in orbit between the moon and the Earth for at least two years.