TESS, NASA’s Latest Planet Hunter, Is Launching

TESS, NASA’s Latest Planet Hunter, Is Launching

There’s a great world next door. Let’s go.

The search for alien worlds and perhaps alien life will take another step outward on Monday when TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is launched into orbit around the Earth. TESS will spend at least two years scrutinizing the entire sky for exoplanets — planets around other stars — within about 300 light years from here. The worlds next door.

When is the launch and how can I watch it?

The launch is presently scheduled for 6:32.07 p.m. EDT on Monday. It can viewed on NASA’s website nasa.gov/live, with live coverage scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

SpaceX, whose rocket will carry TESS into space, anticipated favorable weather conditions for the launch.

Why is the TESS mission important?

Over the last 30 years, astronomers on Earth and in space, using instruments like the Kepler spacecraft, have discovered 4,000 exoplanets, most of them far, far away. The galaxy, they now think, has more planets than stars in it. TESS will find the closest of these planets to Earth, pinpointing targets for the next generation of telescopes, like the James Webb Space Telescope, in space to study for clues to their habitability or even inhabitants.

TESS is sponsored by NASA, as part of its small Astrophysics Explorer missions. The spacecraft was designed by a collaboration led by George Ricker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and built by Orbital ATK of Dulles, Va. It will be launched in a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

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