Nav: Home

NASA's new planet hunter snaps initial test image, swings by Moon toward final orbit

May 18, 2018

NASA's next planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is one step closer to searching for new worlds after successfully completing a lunar flyby on May 17. The spacecraft passed about 5,000 miles from the Moon, which provided a gravity assist that helped TESS sail toward its final working orbit.

As part of camera commissioning, the science team snapped a two-second test exposure using one of the four TESS cameras. The image, centered on the southern constellation Centaurus, reveals more than 200,000 stars. The edge of the Coalsack Nebula is in the right upper corner and the bright star Beta Centauri is visible at the lower left edge. TESS is expected to cover more than 400 times as much sky as shown in this image with its four cameras during its initial two-year search for exoplanets. A science-quality image, also referred to as a "first light" image, is expected to be released in June.

TESS will undergo one final thruster burn on May 30 to enter its science orbit around Earth. This highly elliptical orbit will maximize the amount of sky the spacecraft can image, allowing it to continuously monitor large swaths of the sky. TESS is expected to begin science operations in mid-June after reaching this orbit and completing camera calibrations.

Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 18, TESS is the next step in NASA's search for planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. The mission will observe nearly the entire sky to monitor nearby, bright stars in search of transits -- periodic dips in a star's brightness caused by a planet passing in front of the star. TESS is expected to find thousands of exoplanets. NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2020, will provide important follow-up observations of some of the most promising TESS-discovered exoplanets, allowing scientists to study their atmospheres.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Orbital ATK, based in Dulles, Virginia; NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. The TESS science instruments were jointly developed by MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and MIT's Lincoln Laboratory. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.
-end-


NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Related Astrophysics Articles:

Radio astronomers peer deep into the stellar nursery of the Orion Nebula
Astronomers have released an image of a 50-light-year-long filament of star-forming gas, 1200 light-years away, in the stellar nursery of the Orion Nebula.
Geology and biology agree on Pangaea supercontinent breakup dates
Scientists at The Australian National University have found that independent estimates from geology and biology agree on the timing of the breakup of the Pangaea supercontinent into today's continents.
Top high-energy prize awarded to LSU physicist and LIGO scientist Gabriela González
The 2017 Rossi Prize has been awarded to Gabriela González and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration for the first direct detections of gravitational waves, for the discovery of merging black hole binaries and for beginning the new era of gravitational-wave astronomy.
Lars Bildsten wins 2017 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics
The American Institute of Physics and the American Astronomical Society announced today, on behalf of the Heineman Foundation for Research, Educational, Charitable, and Scientific Purposes, that California astrophysicist Lars Bildsten is the winner of the 2017 Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, a distinguished honor awarded annually to recognize significant contributions to the field.
Finding inspiration in the stars
Lars Bildsten, director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, wins the 2017 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics.
ANU helps find supercluster of galaxies near Milky Way
The Australian National University is part of an international team of astronomers that found one of the Universe's biggest superclusters of galaxies near the Milky Way.
Newly formed stars shoot out powerful whirlwinds
Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute have used the ALMA telescopes to observe the early stages in the formation of a new solar system.
Vanderbilt physicists Keivan Stassun and Kalman Varga elected APS Fellows
Two Vanderbilt physicists, Keivan Stassun and Kalman Varga, have been elected fellows of the American Physical Society.
Breaking up: a convoluted drama at nuclear scale, too
Regardless of the scenario, breaking up is dramatic. Take the case of carbon splitting into three nuclei of helium.
Chaos in cosmos: Stars with three planet-forming discs of gas
A star with a ring of planets orbiting around it - that is the picture we know from our own solar system and from many of the thousands of exoplanets observed in recent years.

Related Astrophysics Reading:

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Author)

An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics
by Bradley W. Carroll (Author), Dale A. Ostlie (Author)

Calculating the Cosmos: How Mathematics Unveils the Universe
by Ian Stewart (Author)

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
by Brian Greene (Author)

Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military
by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Author), Avis Lang (Author)

Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour
by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Author), Michael A. Strauss (Author), J. Richard Gott (Author)

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries
by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Author)

A Brief History of Time
by Stephen Hawking (Author)

Astrophysics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by James Binney (Author)

Introduction to Astrophysics: The Stars (Dover Books on Physics)
by Jean Dufay (Author), Owen Gingerich (Translator)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Hacking The Law
We have a vision of justice as blind, impartial, and fair — but in reality, the law often fails those who need it most. This hour, TED speakers explore radical ways to change the legal system. Guests include lawyer and social justice advocate Robin Steinberg, animal rights lawyer Steven Wise, political activist Brett Hennig, and lawyer and social entrepreneur Vivek Maru.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#495 Earth Science in Space
Some worlds are made of sand. Some are made of water. Some are even made of salt. In science fiction and fantasy, planet can be made of whatever you want. But what does that mean for how the planets themselves work? When in doubt, throw an asteroid at it. This is a live show recorded at the 2018 Dragon Con in Atlanta Georgia. Featuring Travor Valle, Mika McKinnon, David Moscato, Scott Harris, and moderated by our own Bethany Brookshire. Note: The sound isn't as good as we'd hoped but we love the guests and the conversation and we wanted to...