NASA Prepares to Find More Planets With Launch of TESS on Monday

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite's goal is to find planets that are smaller than Neptune.

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS. (NASA)

NASA is getting ready to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, which will head out into space searching for planets that are smaller than Neptune, with a radius less than about four times that of Earth. Scientists will use other telescopes to measure the masses of 50 of the planets TESS finds, to see if they are habitable places for life as we know it, reports The Los Angeles Times. 

“It’s very exciting,” MIT astrophysicist George Ricker said to the LA Times. “We’re getting a chance to potentially answer a question that humanity’s always been interested in: What’s in the sky? And are there other beings, other places like Earth?”

NASA has been trying to answer these questions for years, using the telescopes Hubble and Spitzer to search for exoplanets. Meanwhile, the Kepler Space Telescope’s mission has detected 2,342 confirmed and 2,235 candidate exoplanets. TESS is going to up that mission. Kepler stared at one small patch in the sky, whose stars are up to 3,000 light-years away. TESS will look in nearly all directions and will target stars that are less than 300 light-years away.

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