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

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, was scheduled to launch at 6:32 pm yesterday atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Its major aim 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 often called 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 dimensions of Earth.

“They are going to be orbiting the nearest, brightest stars,” Elisa Quintana, TESS scientist at Nasa’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, informed 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 many years 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 informed 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 house company’s Kepler spacecraft, which was the primary of its type and launched in 2009. The growing old spacecraft is at the moment low on gas and close to the tip of its life.

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

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

Nasa to launch hunt for 20,000 exoplanets by: Elie Abi Younes published:

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