Nasa’s new planet hunter starts work

NASA’s newest observatory in space has started its search for planets around other stars as astronomers zero in on worlds that are ripe for research by follow-up missions like the James Webb Space Telescope.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite officially began a two-year science mission last week, around three months after its blastoff from 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 neighbourhood 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.”
Equipped with four 16.8-megapixel science cameras, TESS will look for blinks in light coming from relatively bright, nearby stars caused when planets pass in front of them. From those observations, astronomers can determine the size of each newly-discovered planet, then use other techniques such as radial velocity measurements to derive their masses.
TESS is a follow-up to Nasa’s Kepler mission, which is nearing the end of its mission searching for planets around other stars. Kepler — Nasa’s first mission dedicated to an exoplanet search — generally looked for worlds around more distant stars, resulting in 2,650 new confirmed planets beyond our solar system to date.
The TESS mission is geared to observe stars closer to the sun.