NASA's TASS planet hunt begins

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TASS) has officially begun its two-year science mission.
By Tyler MacDonald | Jul 28, 2018
NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TASS) just began its two-year science mission Wednesday. It began its hunt approximately three months after it left Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

"I'm thrilled that our new planet hunter mission is ready to start scouring our solar system's neighborhood for new worlds," said Paul Hertz, NASA's astrophysics division director. "Now that we know there are more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the strange, fantastic worlds we're bound to discover."

"You can go out on a dark night, and you can see 6,000 stars or so in the sky with your naked eye," said George Ricker, who leads the TESS science team at MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research "We're going to look at every single one of those stars."

Ricker expects TESS to find between 500 and 1,000 planets about one and three times larger than the Earth, which would increase the number of known planets outside of our solar system. However, this isn't the only goal of the mission.

"The focus that TESS has on finding systems associated with bright stars means that they will be much easier to follow-up," Ricker said. "Once you find that a transiting system exists, it's something that you'll want to come back to and study more and more as improved instruments, satellites and telescopes become available because this is going to be the benchmark for future research."

Thus far, NASA has released one image from one of the four cameras on TESS, which showed abut 200,000 stars on the plane of the Milky Way.

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