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NASA Planet Hunter Ready For Liftoff

NASA Planet Hunter Ready For Liftoff

If the launch is delayed, another window opens tomorrow at 6:13 pm ET.

NASA's Kepler space observatory used the same method to detect more than 2,600 confirmed exoplanets, most orbiting faint stars 300 to 3,000 light years away. Following the launch, SpaceX will attempt to recover the Falcon 9 rocket and nose cone by landing the rocket on a drone ship and using parachutes to slow down fairings before they hit the Atlantic.

TESS' four wide-field telescopic cameras will survey an area hundreds of times as wide, adding up to 85 percent of the entire sky.

The mission is expected to catalog more than 200,000 candidates for exoplanets.

"On average the stars that TESS observes are 30-100 times brighter and 10 times closer than the stars that Kepler focused on".

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The first data from TESS is expected to be made public in July 2018, and NASA says citizen astronomers are welcome to help study the planets for signs of possible habitability.

Further follow-ups on potentially habitable planets could be done using more powerful telescopes, such as NASA's yet-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope, which is created to analyze alien atmospheres and help scientists look for potential signs of life. "Humans have always wondered if we are alone in the universe, and until 25 years ago the only planets we knew were the eight of our solar system, but since then we have found thousands of planets in orbit around other stars, and we think that all the stars in our galaxy must have their own family of planets", he said.

"TESS forms a bridge from what we have learned about exoplanets to date and where we are headed in the future", said Jeff Volosin, TESS project manager at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center.

Researchers might even consider sending swarms of tiny probes to sweep by the most promising candidates - a strategy that the Breakthrough Starshot initiative is already working on for the Alpha Centauri star system. "The thing that we can imagine is that there's this armada of nanosatellites that'll be sweeping out from the Earth to send back information". "We're going to be able to study individual planets and start talking about the differences between planets".

Nasa predicts that TESS will discover 20,000 exoplanets - or planets outside the solar system - including more than 50 Earth-sized planets and up to 500 planets less than twice the size of Earth. If there is a possibility of a habitable planet, TESS will report about it.

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