NASA’s next planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is scheduled to launch as early as April 16, 2018. TESS is expected to find thousands of planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets, orbiting the nearest and brightest stars in our cosmic neighborhood. Powerful telescopes like NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope can then further study these exoplanets to search for important characteristics, like their atmospheric composition and whether they could support life.
NASA will have a press conference at 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday, March 28, as experts discuss the upcoming launch of NASA’s next planet hunter.
The mission will find exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars, events called transits. TESS will survey 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for transiting exoplanets. The mission is scheduled to launch no earlier than April 16, 2018, and no later than June 2018.
TESS scientists expect the mission will catalog thousands of planet candidates and vastly increase the current number of known exoplanets. Of these, approximately 300 are expected to be Earth-sized and super-Earth-sized exoplanets, which are worlds no larger than twice the size of Earth. TESS will find the most promising exoplanets orbiting our nearest and brightest stars, giving future researchers a rich set of new targets for more comprehensive follow-up studies.