Watch SpaceX Loft NASA’s New Planet-Hunting Mission Into Orbit

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Watch SpaceX Loft NASA’s New Planet-Hunting Mission Into Orbit‘WIREDNASA to launch satellite looking for 20000 new exoplanets‘Aljazeera.comNasa planet-hunter set for launch‘BBC NewsSpaceX Set to Launch NASA’s TESS Space Telescope Tonight‘Popular Mechanics

Watch SpaceX Loft NASA’s New Planet-Hunting Mission Into Orbit

NASA’s newest galactic scout is ready for duty. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (dubbed TESS for short) is set to embark on a two-year mission to scour our cosmic neighborhood for potentially habitable worlds. But first, it’ll need a boost from SpaceX.

Exhaust plumes billowed around Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral last Wednesday as SpaceX successfully test-fired its Falcon 9 rocket. Today, if all goes as planned, it will roar to life at 6:32 pm EDT, lofting the refrigerator-sized TESS spacecraft into orbit.

The Falcon 9 used for this flight will sport a brand new first stage booster’the final block 4 version before the upgraded block 5 version rolls out next month, which will sport upgraded engines and enhancements that will ease reusability. Once the first stage has done its job, it will return to Earth, where a drone ship will be waiting in the Atlantic Ocean to catch it.

The TESS satellite will survey the sky in search of small dips in the light emanating from nearby stars. Those dips are telltale signs that a planet could be passing in front of its parent star’an event astronomers call a transit.

TESS’s predecessor, the Kepler Space Telescope, also used the transit method to become the most prolific planet-hunter in history. In the course of its mission, it identified thousands of candidate planets beyond our solar system. Astronomers have validated 2,600 of its observations, and thousands more are awaiting confirmation. But mission scientists expect TESS to find even more exoplanets, by surveying a patch of sky hundreds of times larger than the one eyed by Kepler.

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Quite a lot has been going on:

NASA to launch satellite looking for 20000 new exoplanets

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Nasa planet-hunter set for launch

The Tess mission will go up on a Falcon rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida and survey nearly the entire sky over the course of the next two years.

It will stare at stars, hoping to catch the dip in brightness as their faces are traversed by orbiting worlds.

Tess will build a catalogue of nearby, bright stars and their planets that other telescopes can then follow up.

Key among these will be the successor to Hubble – the James Webb space observatory, due in orbit from 2020. Its powerful vision will have the capability to analyse the atmospheres of some of Tess’s new worlds, to look for gases that might hint at the presence of life.

James Webb will “tease out the chemical compositions of those atmospheres and look for whatever’s there,” said Paul Hertz, the astrophysics director at Nasa. “People are very interested in looking for, what on Earth, are bio-signatures, such as methane, carbon dioxide, water vapour and oxygen.”

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Watch SpaceX Loft NASA’s New Planet
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