TESS Hunts For Alien Worlds: Here’s What’s Next After NASA’s Successful Launch Of Exoplanet Mission


TESS mission team members have shared what is going to happen in the next few days after the successful launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

They also reveal what can happen over the course of two years for NASA's Exoplanet Mission.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite launched into orbit on April 18 atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:51 p.m. EDT and separated from the rocket 49 minutes later.

The Next 60 Days After TESS NASA Launch

Over the next five days, TESS solar arrays will have been deployed and the satellite will have rendered system checks to make sure that all systems are working fine. In about eight days, TESS cameras will be switched on but it will not yield any footage at this point.

Greg Berthiaume, the TESS instrument manager at MKI and MIT's Lincoln Lab, says TESS will take a while to stabilize in orbit because it is going to be the first of its kind to be placed in that particular orbit. He makes sure that TESS's camera and other equipment will perform its designated scientific purpose.

Berthiaume describes the orbit as far-ranging and highly elliptical. It can take some time before the gravity of the Earth and the Moon find the perfect timing to keep TESS very stable. According to his estimate, it can take six weeks for TESS to achieve this orbit.

He adds that the first interesting data coming from TESS will only be available sometime in the summer. Unfortunately, as TESS will be flying over the moon by May 17, it means people will not be seeing a footage of this event.

In mid-June, when TESS's orbit will hopefully be stabilized, the first images that can be sent to Earth will be blurred like a screenshot from a television with static.

Earth Twin Planet In Our Solar System

Diana Dragomir, an observational astronomer focusing on small exoplanets, says TESS will primarily hunt for the first "Earth Twin." Dragomir is also a Hubble postdoctoral fellow at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysicists and Space Research.

TESS will find planets that are analogous to Earth in terms of their characteristics such as size, mass, atmospheric condition, and gravitational force. Specifically, scientists call these planets located in a red dwarf's habitable zone as "Goldilocks."

Red dwarfs are stars smaller and cooler than the sun. A planet around a red dwarf star will have a temperature fit for human habitation.

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