NASA Official Describes Hunt For 'Strange, Fantastic Worlds' As New Alien-Hunting TESS Telescope Officially Begins Its Mission
Members of NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) team announced late last week that the agency's new telescope has begun its hunt for exoplanets and should be sending its first data transmission back to Earth in August, with new data arriving every 13.5 days.
TESS was launched aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on April 18, but its science operations did not officially begin until July 25. The mission, led by MIT, will last for two years and, if all goes to plan, will discover thousands of previously unseen exoplanets. "I'm thrilled that our new planet hunter mission is ready to start scouring our solar system's neighborhood for new worlds," said NASA Astrophysics division director Paul Hertz in a statement.
The telescope has four cameras, each with a 16.8 megapixel sensor. The cameras will observe sectors of the sky for 27 days at a time before rotating to scan a new sector. Each hemisphere will take a year to scan, and when all is said and done, TESS will have collected data for 85 percent of the sky. According to a video posted to YouTube by NASA Goddard (below), that is an area 350 times greater than what was first observed by the Kepler missions.
Back in May, TESS snapped its first image as a two-second exposure test. The image featured over 200,000 stars with the constellation Centaurus at its center, and we suspect that there is a lot more to be seen.
For updates on the progress of the mission, there is an official NASA TESS Twitter account, as well as an official website that the space agency has maintained since the development and construction stages of the telescope.