NASA, Space X set to launch satellite TESS to hunt exoplanets

NASA, Space X set to launch satellite TESS to hunt exoplanets

Tess for short - is embarking Monday on a two-year quest to find and identify mystery worlds thought to be lurking in our cosmic backyard.

According to NASA, scientists expect to find about 50 Earth-sized planets and about 20,000 exoplanets in total, of which the vast majority will probably be larger than Neptune, our solar system's fourth biggest planet.

TESS will be sent into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the launch of which is slated to take place at 10:30 GMT at the Cape Canaveral station in Florida.

The James Webb Space Telescope, which will succeed Hubble and is scheduled for launch in 2020, may be able to detect molecular signatures of exoplanet atmospheres including the signature of the presence of life.

The wildly successful Kepler Space Telescope was created to observe faint stars, and monitor them for brief dips in brightness that would indicate the passage of an object-most commonly a planet.

According to a report by Space.com, NASA's current exoplanet hunting observatory named Kepler, has nearly exhausted its fuel supply, requiring NASA to put TESS into orbit to continue research.

The launch was postponed from Monday, and rescheduled for Wednesday.

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GEORGE RICKER: The most exciting things we've learned from Kepler has been that planets are extremely common.

TESS will use the same process to spot planets outside our Solar System - staring at stars and watching for tiny dips in their brightness which indicate a planet is orbiting in front of them.

Tess will prowl for planets around the closest, brightest stars, eventually becoming prime targets for future telescopes looking for any signs of life. TESS will likely find exoplanets of a kind we've never seen before. There are far more planets in the Milky Way than there are stars.

"Mass is a defining planetary characteristic", said Sara Seager, TESS deputy director of science at MIT.

Shortly thereafter, scientists began to get enough data to hypothesize that many of those planets might be habitable. Other telescopes on the ground will have to make further observations, principally using what's known as the radial velocity method, which measures the degree of gravitational wobble a planet causes in its star.

ANGUS: There are certain conditions that we need for the life that we're familiar with.

This is the first time in history when a space-borne all-sky transit survey will be conducted.

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