Mounted on a SpaceX Falcon Rocket, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched on April 18, 2018 into Earth’s orbit to monitor and detect nearby exoplanets within our solar neighborhood, allowing highly detailed characterizations of discovered planets and their atmospheres.
Classified as an explorer-class planet finder, it is the first space-borne all-sky transiting survey of its kind. Twenty Six observation sectors tile the sky unobstructed, mapping out entire hemispheres of space as seen from Earth. While monitoring over 200,000 stars and observing sudden changes in brightness caused by planetary transits over the course of its two year mission, scientist anticipate to learn much about planetary composition and the formation of terrestrial planets within their host star’s habitable zone.
Building on the work of preceding space observatories, stars observed by TESS appear 30-100 times brighter than those surveyed by Kepler, allowing easier analysis paving the way for further observations measuring each planet’s mass, density, and details of its atmosphere. One of TESS’s most exciting outcomes include the selection of prime targets for highly detailed analysis with NASA’s JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE. TESS is the gateway for advanced astronomincal studies, as the findings of this vessel will aid additional research for decades to come.
Researchers expect TESS to record and analyze over 1,500 transiting exoplanets, including Earth sized and Super Earth sized worlds.
The TESS Science Center is partnered with MIT’s Physics Department and Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, NASA Ames Research Center, and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology serves as the lead institution for TESS, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory being responsible for much of the equipment assembled on the planet hunter including cameras, lenses, and detectors. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is responsible for project management, safety and mission assurance, and systems engineering, while the Orbital ATK (OA), responsible for building the spacecraft, operates the mission.
TESS will allow scientists in the greater community access to additional research on over 20,000 additional objects with the Guest Investigator program.