MIAMI (CBSMiami) — What was once considered science fiction, has now become science fact. Monday, NASA will launch an experimental satellite with a mission to find new earth-like planets outside of our solar system.
It’s called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or TESS for short.
TESS will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Lift-off is planned for 6:32 p.m. EDT
“TESS is going to look for planets around other stars by watching the slight dip in brightness of the star as the planet passes in front of it,” explained Paul Hertz, director, Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft used the same method to spot more than 2,600 confirmed exoplanets, most of them orbiting faint stars 300 to 3,000 light-years away
Once in orbit, TESS will spend about two years surveying 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for planets outside our solar system.
Four wide-field cameras will give TESS a field-of-view that covers 85 percent of our entire sky. Within this vast visual perspective, the sky has been divided into 26 sectors that TESS will observe one by one. The first year of observations will map the 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky, and the second year will map the 13 sectors of the northern sky.
“TESS is the natural next step, by searching for planets near our very nearby bright stars so that we can do the follow up measurements partly that Paul was talking about and by doing those measurements we hope to actually identify all the world’s we’ve been dreaming about,” said Sara Seager, TESS Deputy Director of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Powerful telescopes like NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope can then further study these newly discovered exoplanets to search for important characteristics, like their atmospheric composition and whether they could support life.
“It’s being lead out of MIT and it’s going to find thousands of new planets orbiting bright, nearby stars. And it’s going to build upon the legacy of the Kepler mission, only it’s going to focus on nearby bright stars that are sprinkled across the whole sky and it’s going to help us answer a really important question, and that is: which of our near-stellar neighbors has planets?,” explained Elisa Quintana, NASA Astrophysicist.