TESS began searching for exoplanets

Original author: Jeff Foust
  • Transfer

The newest "exoplanet hunter" TESS began to carry out a scientific program from July 25, three months after launch. Source: NASA

WASHINGTON - NASA, launched in April and intended to search for exoplanets in nearby star systems, began work; the agency published such a statement on July 27th.

In fact, TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, “transit exoplanet observation satellite”) began observing July 25; The satellite, which went into space on April 18 on the Falcon 9 PH, finally went into orbit for a period of 13.5 days around the Earth and successfully tested all of its optical systems.

“Our 'planet finder' is now exactly ready to search the neighbors of the solar system for worlds not yet open, and I'm so damn excited,” said Paul Hertz, head of NASA astrophysics.

Indeed, prior to launch, the agency claimed that it would start the program 60 days after the start; Despite the fact that on July 11, a press release was issued, stating that TESS was fully operational and would be used for monitoring somewhere at the end of July, no explanation was given as to why the deadlines had shifted by another month.

The principle of searching for exoplanets is this: a planet, moving in orbit around a star, can partially block it for the observer (“transit”), which causes a small and, most importantly, periodic decrease in the brightness of the star - this is what TESS finds. NASA believes that the satellite is able to find thousands of previously unknown exoplanets, especially in relatively close systems.

In a speech at a meeting of the study program analysts Groups exoplanets NASA (Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group, ExoPAG) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, July 29, George Ricker, a leading researcher in the TESS program, said that they want to start with the sector in the Southern Hemisphere, the solid angle of about 2300 square degrees, from the ecliptic south pole to its plane.

The first data for this area will be transmitted by the satellite on August 8. “We will carefully analyze everything we get, because we want to drastically increase productivity in the next few months,” says Ricoeur. “The news is still wonderful.”

The estimated life of TESS is two years, during which time he will study about 85% of the starry sky, dedicating the first year to the southern hemisphere, and the second to the northern one. However, the team of researchers is full of optimism and believes that the device will be able to work successfully after two years.

In 2009, the Kepler orbital telescope was launched, using a similar method of searching for exoplanets. However, during four years he observed exclusively the fixed sector of the sky, and after the failure of two flywheels of the orientation system, he lost the ability to maintain the direction of the view; Fortunately, after a series of technical tricks, the telescope set off to the “K2 mission”, conducting observations on various regions of space in a series of “campaigns” (approximately three months each). On July 16, NASA announced that Kepler is switching to fuel economy mode, terminating Campaign 18 ahead of time. This happened after engineers discovered an "abnormal" pressure drop in its fuel system, which may be a sign that the fuel is running out - and essentially puts an end to the continuation of research work.

However, despite the agency’s last month’s warning that the start of a new campaign and its duration strongly depended on the status of the device, Gary Blackwood, head of the NASA exoplanet research program, said at the ExoPAG meeting: “The data collected by Kepler during the Campaign 18, will be transferred to Earth on 1 August. After that, on August 6, we launch Campania 19 ".

Also popular now: