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NASA’s Search for Planets Beyond Solar System Begins

As NASA launches its spacecraft, the search for worlds circling stars way beyond the solar system shall begin again. This shall largely help in add up to the known list of so-called exoplanets that are believed capable of supporting life. As per NASA ‘s plan, it is all set to send Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, into orbit. Its launch shall be done from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

This is set for April 16 and June on a two-year, $337-million mission. This latest venture from NASA is based on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope. It is hoped that TESS shall help thousands more previously unknown worlds. This new scrutiny shall take about 60 days to achieve its highly elliptical, first of its type orbit, that will loop TESS between Earth and the moon every two and a half weeks. Right after 4 years of its launch in the year 2013, Kepler's positioning system broke down. For this reason also, the launch of TESS, at this point of time is being considered as appropriate. TESS is almost of the size of a refrigerator with solar-panel wings. It is configured with four special cameras to survey nearly 200,000 stars. TESS will make use of a detection method called transit photometry and shall scan the majority of the heavens for shorter periods and focus more on red dwarfs. Red Dwarfs are stars which are smaller, cooler and longer-lived than our sun. Although TESS may not be able to find life beyond Earth, TESS shall help in finding out areas where should more emphasis be paid.

By: Anuja Arora