TESS Counting Down to Take-Off

EAPS News
Friday, April 6, 2018

Pre-launch media coverage of the MIT-led mission.

Planned for launch April 16, 2018, The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an MIT-led NASA mission to discover thousands of exoplanets in orbit around the brightest stars in the sky. In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, the satellite will monitor more than 200,000 stars for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. This first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. No ground-based survey can achieve this feat.

Professor Sara Seager from MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), joins George Ricker (TESS Principal Investigator and Director of the CCD Laboratory in the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research) and David Latham (Director of Science and a Senior Astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Harvard) as Deputy Director of Science on the TESS leadership team.


NASA's TESS is going to be your new favorite space mission
The new space telescope is named TESS — short for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — and it has a pretty awesome job.

"We plan to followup atmospheres with JWST and we have the capability to find water vapor and signs of life by way of gases that don’t belong that might be attributed to life," MIT exoplanet hunter Sara Seager said via email.

 

TESS is a particularly exciting moment for exoplanet scientists today, but hopefully the public will want to get involved as well. 

"Planet finding never gets old," Seager said. "I hope the public will joyfully share in discoveries."

Read the April 8, 2018 Mashable story NASA's TESS is going to be your new favorite space mission


NASA’s next exoplanet hunter will seek worlds close to home
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is designed to spot planets orbiting nearby bright stars.

“It’s not so much the numbers of planets that we care about, but the fact that they are orbiting nearby stars,” says Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge and deputy science director for TESS.

Read the April 4, 2018 Nature story NASA’s next exoplanet hunter will seek worlds close to home


The Unique Orbit of NASA’s Newest Planet Hunter

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite - TESS - will fly in an orbit that completes two circuits around Earth every time the Moon orbits once. This special orbit will allow TESS’s cameras to monitor each patch of sky continuously for nearly a month at a time. To get into this orbit, TESS will make a series of loops culminating in a lunar gravity assist, which will give it the final push it needs. TESS will reach its orbit about 60 days after launch. This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio at: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12884 Music: "Drive to Succeed" from Killer Tracks Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center


Meet TESS, Seeker of Alien Worlds
As TESS moves inexorably towards the launch pad, the New York Times brings readers up to speed with the MIT-led mission.

"No earlier than 6:32 p.m. on April 16, in NASA’s fractured parlance, a little spacecraft known as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or Tess, bristling with cameras and ambition, will ascend on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in a blaze of smoke and fire from the old Apollo launching pad here and take up a lengthy residence between the moon and the Earth."

Read the March 26, 2018 New York Times story: Meet TESS, Seeker of Alien Worlds

Links

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an Explorer-class planet finder. In the first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey, TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, orbiting a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. The principal goal of the TESS mission is to detect small planets with bright host stars in the solar neighborhood, so that detailed characterizations of the planets and their atmospheres can be performed.

Sara Seager is a planetary scientist and astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she is a Professor of Planetary Science, Professor of Physics, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, and holds the Class of 1941 Professor Chair. She has pioneered many research areas of characterizing exoplanets with concepts and methods that now form the foundation of the field of exoplanet atmospheres.

Related

TESS Mission to Discover New Planets Moves Toward Launch MIT News

Exoplanets and the Search for Habitable Worlds MIT School of Science

NASA selects MIT-led TESS project for 2017 mission MIT News