NASA Is Launching A Planet-Hunting Satellite Today
19 April, 2018, 06:30
Elon Musk's rocket company will livestream the 6:51 p.m. ET launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The Tess satellite will scan nearly the entire sky, starting at the brightest, closest stars in an effort to find any planets that might be encircling them.
A Falcon 9 rocket has blasted off on SpaceX's first high-priority science mission for NASA, a planet-hunting space telescope whose launch was delayed for two days by a rocket-guidance glitch.
This has been a busy few weeks for SpaceX, which launched its 14 resupply mission to the International Space Station on April 2, sending a reused cargo ship packed with supplies and equipment to the orbiting lab. Repeated dips would indicate a planet passing in front of its star.
ORBIT: Tess will aim for a unique elongated orbit that passes within 45,000 miles of Earth on one end and as far away as the orbit of the moon on the other end.
TESS will focus on 200,000 pre-selected stars that are relatively nearby and among the brightest as seen from Earth, making them better-suited for sensitive follow-up analysis.
TESS is expected to reveal 20,000 planets beyond our solar system, including more than 50 Earth-sized planets and up to 500 planets less than twice the size of the Earth, NASA said. That's why NASA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and and other collaborators are targeting stars within hundreds or, at most, thousands of light-years: It will make the detailed searches yet to come that much easier.
"This first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances", NASA said in a statement. NASA's newest planet-hunting spacecraft is poised for a Monday evening launch. "This special orbit is key in potentially finding thousands of new planets outside our solar system". Its job is to find and characterize planets that will become the main targets of future telescopes.
But President Donald Trump scrapped this decision, relaying a message through White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. A United Nations-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism also looked at responsibility for chemical weapons use.
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