NASA launches new hunter of potentially habitable planets

NASA launches new hunter of potentially habitable planets

NASA is due to launch on Monday its new space telescope in search of planets of terrestrial size likely, perhaps, to shelter the life.
The Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey (TESS) is to be flown into space at 18:32 (2232 GMT) by a Space X Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, weather permitting.
Over the next two years, the mission of this $ 337 million aircraft will scan more than 200,000 of the brightest stars beyond our solar system, looking for exoplanets in their orbit.
Like Kepler, the first telescope of its kind launched in 2009 by the American Space Agency, which he replaces, he uses the method of transits, detecting planets as they pass in front of their star, whose light they momentarily dim. This allows among other things to deduce size, mass and orbit.
According to NASA, TESS will be able to discover 20,000 exoplanets, about fifty of the size of the Earth and nearly 500 which would be twice as large as our planet.
“One could even find planets in the orbit of stars that can be seen with the naked eye,” TESS researcher Elisa Quintana told reporters on Sunday. “In the next few years, we can probably go out and point a star knowing that it has a planet.”
The Kepler mission has already discovered 2,300 new exoplanets confirmed by other telescopes. TESS will screen an area 350 times larger.
The next step will be for terrestrial and space telescopes to observe the planets thus detected even closer.
The James Webb Space Telescope, which will succeed Hubble and is scheduled for launch in 2020, may be able to detect molecular signatures of exoplanet atmospheres including the signature of life presence.
“TESS is a bridge between what we have already learned about exoplanets and what we will learn in the future,” said Jeff Volosin, project director at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
“With the hope of being able one day, in the coming decades, to identify the potential conditions for the existence of life outside our solar system.”

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