The data will be collected during a two-year period in which TESS will survey the entire sky by breaking it into 26 equal sectors.
NASA is all set to launch its next hunt for planets outside our solar system as preparations get underway for the launch of the TESS satellite, which will be carried into space in a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Tuesday morning.
But in order to study planets, the JWST needs to know where they are and which may theoretically possess an atmosphere capable of sustaining life - they must not be too far or too close to their sun to have liquid water.
On Monday, April 16, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
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SpaceX said: "Following stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to land Falcon 9's first stage on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean". The primary weather concern for the launch day is strong winds, NASA said in a statement late Saturday.
While the Kepler mission was considered a major success, NASA noted that most of the planets it recorded are those that orbit faint, faraway stars, making it hard to conduct follow-up observations.
"NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is an all-sky survey mission that will discover thousands of exoplanets around nearby bright stars", explains the space agency.
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By measuring the brightness of some 200,000 stars, NASA hopes to discover as many as 20,000 new planets, 500 of which could potentially be habitable for alien life. We are a very small part of a very big universe. The targets TESS finds are going to be fantastic subjects for research for decades to come.
"We learned from Kepler that there are more planets than stars in our sky, and now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars", said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters. The transit method allows to determine the size of the planet, its density and composition of the atmosphere. Every time he approaches Earth, he will send scientists the information he has collected in the meantime.
NASA estimates that TESS could find thousands of these candidate planets. For instance, if scientists see methane alongside many other hydrogen-rich gases, the source is likely not biological, said Seager.
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