Will replace the Kepler telescope and look for life beyond our solar system.
NASA’s new spacecraft Tess has been suspended to look for planets similar to Earth, where life can exist beyond our solar system.
The plan is to discover 20,000 new planets.
The Tess (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) satellite was launched from Florida in the United States with a Falcon 9 rocket from private space company Space X.
The satellite, which has cost the equivalent of SEK 2.8 billion and is large as a washing machine, will search for light variations around stars. It may be a sign that planets are orbiting them.
The focus will be on planets within about 10 to 100 light years away. The satellite is expected to detect 20,000 planets beyond our solar system, among them about 50 are believed to be the same size as Earth and 500 that are up to twice the size of our planet.
The planets will then be studied with telescopes for signs that they are habitable: mountainous terrain, a size similar to Earth’s and a distance from the planet’s sun which allows the right temperature for water to exist.
“The stories about these plans will continue long after they are discovered,” says Martin Still, a researcher at the Tess project.
Tess will be able to search for much larger areas than her predecessor the Kepler telescope, which was launched in 2009. Both use the same planetary hunter system, to find the shadows that occur when the planet passes in front of its sun.
“All kinds of planets”
Kepler has found over 2,300 plans outside our solar system, but most were too far away or seemed too unclear to be examined further.
“One of the many amazing things Kepler showed us was that there are planets everywhere and that all kinds of planets are out there,” says Patricia Boyd, director of the Tess program.
The first attempt to send Tess off was canceled two hours before departure on Monday. After a fine hiatus from the Space X engineers, Wednesday night’s launch was completed without any problems. Less than ten minutes after the rocket was lifted, its first steps returned to an unmanned platform in the Atlantic. Shortly thereafter, Nasa was able to announce that the two solar panels of the spacecraft had been dropped.
Tess will now spend two months getting to the right orbit. The first date for researchers is expected in July.