The exoplanet-hunting satellite, NASA TESS space telescope, has completed its primary mission of finding the new exoplanet in the universe. To our surprise, it discovered around 66 new exoplanets, or worlds similar to our solar system. Right now, around 2100 astronomers are working day and night to confirm the existence of these new worlds, says the US space agency.
NASA released a statement in which it says – TESS, a.k.a. Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite has spanned almost 75% of the starry sky in the primary mission, which ended on 4th July 2020. It will continue to explore the heavens as the mission will run till September 2022.
Patricia Boyd, Project Scientist for TESS, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, told – “TESS is generating a torrent of high-quality observations that provides us with valuable data across multiple science topics.”
The journey of TESS Space Telescope
TESS satellite was launched to Earth orbit back in April 2018. It started its working between July-August 2018. The mission of this space telescope is to hunt alien worlds similar to earth by using the transit method, monitor stars movement for a brightness dips caused by orbiting worlds that cross their faces.
It monitors 24/96 degree sky strips known as sectors for a month via four cameras installed in it. TESS spent its 1st year observing thirteen sectors in the southern sky and then spent another year imaging the northern sky. In the extended mission, it will again start surveying the south.
The transit method strategy was used by TESS’s predecessor, Kepler Space telescope, which died in October 2018. It found about 2/3rd of the 4,200 exoplanets that have been discovered till now. The discoveries made by Kepler are still under observation as scientists continue to explore huge data set of this spacecraft. NASA requires more than 3,000 additional candidates for further analysis.
After imaging the southern sky for the next one year, TESS will collect additional observations in the northern sky and survey ecliptic areas in another 15 months. The areas along the ecliptic are the plane of Earth’s orbit around the sun, which is still untouched by the satellite.
During the mission, TESS yielded various interesting finds, which includes an Earth-sized planet by the code-name TOI 700 d. It orbits in its star’s habitat zone, and there are speculations that the liquid water might be stable on a world’s surface. It also revealed a newly minted-planet orbiting around young star AU Microscopii and a Neptune-size world orbiting two suns. In the last two years, TESS also recorded the outburst of a comet and numerous exploding stars in our solar system. It also observed a black hole in a distant galaxy shredding a Sun-like star.
Now the task is to make the extended mission more successful as the TESS team made some upgrades over the past two years. The cameras can now capture a full-image every 10 minutes, which is 3-times faster compared to the primary mission. The fast mode will allow the brightness of 1000s of stars to get measured every 20 seconds.
The budget of the primary mission was capped at $200 million, and the launch costs were included separately that were around $87 million. The extended mission will not cost that much.