TESS to take over Kepler’s mission


On April 16, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. TESS was created by NASA and its main goal is to search for exoplanets. According to CNN, officials said Wednesday that TESS will search for planets that can sustain life, much like Kepler did since it launched in 2009.

After discovering more than 4,500 potential planets and exoplanets, Kepler will run out of fuel soon. Luckily, TESS will have arrived in space by the time that happens to continue the search for exoplanets. CNN stated that Kepler “will be abandoned in space, orbiting the sun and never getting any closer to Earth than the moon.”

To have a mission that outlives two years, TESS is expected to orbit around the Earth through the use of fuel and a gravity support from the moon. The mission will officially begin when TESS has an established orbit around Earth and when it passes instrument tests 60 days later.

Although similar in mission, CNN included the differences that Kepler and TESS do have. TESS will be able to “survey an area 400 times larger than what Kepler observed.” The area will also have 200,000 of the brightest stars. TESS will have four-wide cameras that will, for days at a time, take pictures and videos of the sky.

Through the transit method, TESS will search for exoplanets by detecting the brightness dips of stars as planets pass in front of them. NASA is predicting that TESS will find more than 1,500 exoplanets, but also think that TESS could find much more.

According to CNN, officials believe that out of the 1,500 possible exoplanets found, 300 could be similar to Earth or double the size of Earth, with the potential to support life outside of our solar system.

George Ricker, the TESS principal investigator at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, said that “we expect TESS will discover a number of planets whose atmospheric compositions, which hold potential clues to the presence of life, could be precisely measured by future observers.”

With Kepler, it was discovered that there were more planets than stars. TESS will reveal even more of those planets, allowing researchers to have a better understanding of the differences between these planets and whether they have the potential to sustain life.