NASA telescope discovers two new planets

21 Septembre, 2018, 04:13 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • TESS took this snapshot of the Large Magellanic Cloud and the bright star R Doradus with just a single detector of one of its cameras on August 7. Image credit NASA  MIT  TESS

In April, NASA launched its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

The science picture, taken with all four of TESS' wide-field cameras, shows an impressive and nearly romantic wealth of stars and other celestial objects.

The small bright dot above the Small Magellanic Cloud is a globular cluster - a spherical collection of hundreds of thousands of stars - called NGC 104, also known as 47 Tucanae because of its location in the southern constellation Toucana, the Toucan.

"This swath of the sky's southern hemisphere includes more than a dozen stars we know have transiting planets based on previous studies from ground observatories", said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge.

"This first light science image shows the capabilities of TESS' cameras, and shows that the mission will realise its incredible potential in our search for another Earth".

"In a sea of stars brimming with new worlds, TESS is casting a wide net and will haul in a bounty of promising planets for further study", said Dr. Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The test image was taken over a 30-minute period on August 7, using all four of TESS' cameras. It makes good on that effort, too; the image contains more than a dozen stars previously known to host transiting planets -planets that pass between the star and the satellite.

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The image below shows more of TESS' "first light" image.

TESS's target stars are 30 to 300 light-years away and about 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler's targets, which are 300 to 3,000 light-years away.

What lies ahead for TESS?

TESS has also started observations requested through the TESS Guest Investigator Program, which allows the broader scientific community to conduct research using the satellite.

NASA plans to have TESS monitor 85% of the sky over the next two years, focusing on a new sector every 27 days. TESS will study 13 sectors in the southern sky the first year, followed by 13 sectors in the northern sky the second year. Created by combining the view from all four of its cameras, this is TESS' "first light", from the first observing sector that will be used for identifying planets around other stars.

To hunt for planets, the telescope will look for changes in a star's brightness level - an indication that a planet is passing in front of the star as part of its orbit.

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