The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), NASA’s extraordinary planet hunter, has just shared a breathtaking new image during its search for distant exoplanets.
According to Phys.org, this very special image from TESS captured the southern sky beautifully by using all of the planet hunter’s wide-field cameras. Paul Hertz, the astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, explained that the new and powerful image from TESS shows just how magnificently the spacecraft’s cameras work, which is surely inspiring as TESS continues to seek out planets beyond our solar system.
“In a sea of stars brimming with new worlds, TESS is casting a wide net and will haul in a bounty of promising planets for further study. This first light science image shows the capabilities of TESS’ cameras, and shows that the mission will realize its incredible potential in our search for another Earth.”
The new image from TESS was captured in August 7 over a 30-minute stretch and shows the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds along with numerous constellations which range from Capricornus to Pictor. Glancing directly above the Small Magellanic Cloud, viewers can spot the bright object known as NGC 104 which is a globular cluster.
Also of interest in the image are the stars R Doradus and Beta Gruis, which were so bright when the photographs were taken that the planet hunter’s second and fourth cameras couldn’t quite cope, and the image of these two stars is so saturated that they almost appear to be emitting streaks of light.
— Phys.org (@physorg_com) September 17, 2018
George Ricker, who is the principal investigator for TESS, noted that many of the stars that were snapped in the new image are believed to also have transiting planets.
“This swath of the sky’s southern hemisphere includes more than a dozen stars we know have transiting planets based on previous studies from ground observatories.”
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will be taking two years to scan 85 percent of the skies for transits and monitoring the brightness of stars that are between 30 to 300 light-years away to see when dips occur in its hunt for exoplanets.
With 26 sectors of the sky being analyzed, its first year will see it monitoring 13 sectors of the southern sky. Once the southern sky is completed, TESS will move on to the northern sky for the next year, studying 13 sectors there.
When TESS does discover exoplanets, the James Webb Space Telescope and other observatories will investigate them further to learn more about their densities and masses and what their atmospheres might be like.