How to watch SpaceX launch NASA's new planet-hunting satellite today

TESS the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is shown in this

TESS the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is shown in this

Using data from a number of sources, including Vanderbilt's KELT telescope and the star "flicker" analysis method pioneered at Vanderbilt, Stassun and his team have been working since 2012 to narrow down the field from 470 million stars visible to TESS to the 250,000 most likely to host a planet like our own.

"The Moon and the satellite are in a sort of dance", Joel Villasenor, instrument scientist for TESS at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a statement.

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

The Kepler mission has already uncovered 2,300 new exoplanets confirmed by other telescopes.

NASA's Kepler telescope, launched nine years ago and nearing the end of its mission, found thousands of exoplanets by staring at a tiny sliver of the sky. That will enable it to have a long-term mission beyond its two-year objective.

TESS will survey an area 400 times larger than what Kepler observed. TESS also offers guest researchers the opportunity to take a closer look at other celestial bodies.

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Scientists expect TESS to catalogue some 20,000 transiting exoplanet candidates (most of which will be larger than Neptune), as well as 50 Earth-sized bodies.

TESS aims to detect exoplanets including those that could support life. If there is a possibility of a habitable planet, TESS will report about it. Using the known planet size, orbit and mass, TESS and ground-based follow-up will be able to determine the planets' compositions. "On average the stars that TESS observes are 30-100 times brighter and 10 times closer than the stars that Kepler focused on".

After Kepler validated the search for exoplanets by finding thousands of them through careful measurements of periodically dimming stars, astronomers have confidence that TESS and its four cameras will be able to monitor the brightness of more than 200,000 stars during a two-year mission and find thousands of exoplanets.

Hubble itself will also be replaced by the JWST (the James Webb Space Telescope) and will have 6.5-meter-wide mirror, capable of collecting more light than Hubble ever could. If his ballon-stunt works (it's probably not a real party balloon, but since it's Musk we're talking about here, who knows), SpaceX would have become capable of recovering almost the entire assembly. The TESS mission is expected to find planets ranging from small, rocky worlds to giant planets, showcasing the diversity of planets in the galaxy. "We're on this scenic tour of the whole sky, and in some ways we have no idea what we will see". We can say how massive they are and how old they are.

When active, TESS will collect 27GB of scientific data every day before being put through NASA's specialist algorithms, which are created to clean up the signal to remove any background interference.

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