NASA's TESS Space Telescope Just Captured Its First 'Official' Images of the Stars

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 - 12:32PM
Astronomy
Space
NASA
Wednesday, 19 September 2018 - 12:32PM
NASA's TESS Space Telescope Just Captured Its First 'Official' Images of the Stars
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Image Credit: NASA/Goddard
Last May, NASA's TESS spacecraft (short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) took its first test photo of the cosmos, but despite providing astronomy fans with a breathtaking image of space, it wasn't high enough resolution for real science. Now, four months later, TESS has taken its "first light" image—the first official photo of a telescope after being fully assembled and prepared. In fact, it took 26 images, each of which represents a sector of the sky that TESS will observe over the coming years.

The new images include twelve constellations, as well as the Large Magellanic Cloud and much more. TESS will spend 27 days looking at each of the 26 sectors, searching for exoplanets via the transit method—an astronomy technique that watches for dips in a star's brightness caused by a planet passing in front of it (called a 'transit').

TESS won't be searching for these planets blind, however—it will be aided by the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope and NASA's already robust catalog of exoplanet data. According to George Ricker, TESS' principal investigator: "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."

Apart from finding potentially habitable exoplanets for humans, TESS may also be humanity's first tool to discover alien life on other planets. According to a statement made by NASA Astrophysics division director Paul Hertz back in July: "Now that we know there are more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the strange, fantastic worlds we're bound to discover."

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