Snapped during a test of one of the probe’s four cameras, the two-second exposure features a field of more than 200,000 stars centered on the constellation Centaurus.
Beta Centauri, a bright star in Centaurus, is visible on the lower left of the image, while part of the Coalsack Nebula can be seen in the top right corner.
A successor to the Kepler Space Telescope, TESS will observe nearly the whole sky in a search for exoplanets transiting, or passing in front of, their host stars. The space observatory is expected to discover thousands of new planets and gather information about them that will be used determine which have the best chances of being habitable for life.
The lunar flyby gave the spacecraft a gravity assist to propel it to its orbital destination.
Using all of its four cameras, TESS will cover four times as much sky as it did in the May 17 image.
The spacecraft will release its first “science quality” photograph, also known as a “first light” image, next month.
One more thruster burn, scheduled for May 30, will send TESS to its extremely elliptical orbit around the Earth, an orbit that will enable it to observe large sections of the sky continuously during its two-year mission.
Actual science operations will start after the spacecraft reaches its targeted orbit and camera calibrations are completed.