Delay for Nasa's Tess planet-hunter

Delay for Nasa's Tess planet-hunter

Delay for Nasa's Tess planet-hunter

NASA says it will be able to detect them when they periodically block part of the light from their host stars. The main objective will be to find the so-called Earth 2.0 - an exoplanet capable of supporting life.

Called TESS, or Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, the refrigerator-sized satellite is scheduled to fly aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Monday for its two-year trip into orbit.

A new NASA satellite created to detect more Earth-like worlds around stars beyond our solar system is due for launch aboard a SpaceX rocket from Florida on Monday, on a quest to expand the known inventory of so-called exoplanets that might harbor life.

TESS, which follows the successful Kepler mission and the follow-up K2 mission, will survey 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for transiting exoplanets.

"TESS's legacy will be a catalog of the nearest and brightest stars hosting transiting exoplanets, which will comprise the most favorable targets for detailed investigations in the coming decades", NASA notes. TESS is expected to reach a highly elliptical, first-of-a-kind orbit between Earth and the Moon in around 60 days.

TESS will spend two years scanning almost the entire sky - a field of view that can encompass more than 20 million stars.

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But soon afterward, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told SpaceX there's a government restriction that requires a license to show views of Earth from space.

"It was created to look at 150,000 stars in a fairly wide field of view without blinking, for four years", she told reporters on the eve of the launch. TESS was conceived in 2006 as a small mission privately funded by individuals at MIT, Google, and the Kavli Foundation.

TESS uses the same method as Kepler for finding potential planets, by tracking the dimming of light when a celestial body passes in front of a star.

An artist's conception shows the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. If all goes to plan, the satellite will settle into a long, looping orbit around Earth in June. Once the planet has been identified, scientists will be able to take a close look from ground-based telescopes to confirm the discovery and determine how big the planet really is, what is the composition of its atmosphere and if it is a rocky or a gas giant, among many other things. The satellite is instead meant to create a catalogue of nearby planets that future telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, can then inspect more closely.

A NASA satellite scheduled to launch on Monday is part of the USA space agency's search for exoplanets, including ones that could support life.

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