Space telescope TESS completes primary mission with 66 extrasolar planets found

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, a space telescope launched by NASA in April 2018, has completed its primary mission. 66 exoplanets have been discovered and a further 2,100 potential candidates. The telescope continues to search for new worlds.

TESS completed its primary mission on July 4. During that mission, 75 percent of the starry sky was imaged. The telescope started here in July 2018 with the well-known transit method. It looks at decreases in brightness, which may indicate undiscovered exoplanets sliding in front of a star.

Space telescope TESS has in fact created a huge mosaic with its four wide-angle cameras, each time focusing on individual strips of the sky, the size of 24 by 96 degrees. In the first year, thirteen of these sectors were observed in the southern sky, and in the last year, thirteen of these bands were observed as part of the northern sky.

However, the telescope will not be retired yet. An extended mission is now underway and will run until September 2022. TESS has now returned to the southern sky and will spend another 15 months after a year to study other, previously unobserved parts.

A number of enhancements are available during the extended mission. For example, the scientific team behind TESS has made improvements to the way the satellite collects and processes data. The cameras can now take a full image every ten minutes, three times the time it took during the primary mission. NASA is talking about a new one fast fashion in which the brightness of stars can be measured every 20 seconds. This mode is in addition to the already existing capacity to perform these kinds of measurements for tens of thousands of stars every two minutes. Due to the faster measurements, TESS should be better able to map brightness fluctuations, for example.

For example, one of the newer discoveries is TOI 700 d, an exoplanet about a hundred light years from Earth. In size, this planet is similar to Earth and is located within the “habitable zone” of its small star. The satellite has also made all kinds of other observations and discoveries, such as exploding stars and how a black hole in a distant galaxy pulverized a sun-like star.

TESS was launched in April 2018 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The satellite is the successor to the Kepler space telescope. Compared to its predecessor, TESS is able to map a much larger area of ​​the sky. Kepler has mainly focused on a relatively small part of space, with about 150,000 stars. TESS focuses on stars that are relatively close, up to three hundred light years from Earth.