Nasa is poised to launch a $337 million washing machine-sized spacecraft that goals to vastly develop mankind’s seek for planets past our photo voltaic system, notably nearer, Earth-sized ones which may harbor life.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is scheduled to launch Monday at 6:32 pm (2232 GMT) atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Its essential objective over the subsequent two years is to scan greater than 200,000 of the brightest stars for indicators of planets circling them and inflicting a dip in brightness generally known as a transit.

Nasa predicts that TESS will uncover 20,000 exoplanets – or planets outdoors the photo voltaic system – together with greater than 50 Earth-sized planets and as much as 500 planets lower than twice the scale of Earth.

“They are going to be orbiting the nearest, brightest stars,” Elisa Quintana, TESS scientist at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, advised reporters on Sunday.

“We might even find planets that orbit stars that we can even see with the naked eye,” she added.

“So in the next few years we might even be able to walk outside and point at a star and know that it has a planet. This is the future.”

Just a few a long time in the past, the notion of discovering liveable planets – or any planets in any respect – was a mere fantasy, stated Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA.

“Humans have wondered forever whether we were alone in the universe, and until 25 years ago the only planets we knew about were the eight in our own solar system,” he advised reporters on the eve of the TESS launch.

“But since then, we have found thousands of planets orbiting others stars and we think all the stars in our galaxy must have their own family of planets.”

TESS is designed as a follow-on to the US area company’s Kepler spacecraft, which was the primary of its sort and launched in 2009. The getting old spacecraft is presently low on gas and close to the top of its life.

Kepler discovered a large trove of exoplanets by specializing in one patch of sky, which contained about 150,000 stars just like the Sun.

The Kepler mission discovered 2,300 confirmed exoplanets, and 1000’s extra candidate planets. But many had been too distant and dim to check additional.

TESS, with its 4 superior cameras, will scan an space that’s 350 instances bigger, comprising 85 % of the sky within the first two years alone.

“By looking at such a large section of the sky – this kind of stellar real estate – we open up the ability to cherry-pick the best stars to do follow-up science,” stated Jenn Burt, a postdoctoral fellow on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“On average the stars that TESS observes are 30-100 times brighter and 10 times closer than the stars that Kepler focused on.”

TESS makes use of the identical technique as Kepler for locating potential planets, by monitoring the dimming of sunshine when a celestial physique passes in entrance of a star.

The subsequent step is for ground-based and area telescopes to look even nearer.The Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2020, ought to be capable to reveal extra about planets’ mass, density and the make-up of their ambiance – all clues to habitability.

“TESS forms a bridge from what we have learned about exoplanets to date and where we are headed in the future,” stated Jeff Volosin, TESS undertaking supervisor at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center.

By specializing in planets dozens to a whole bunch of light-years method, TESS might allow future breakthroughs, he stated.


Nasa on planet-hunting mission by: Elie Abi Younes published:


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