NASA’s TESS mission was designed to hunt alien planets, but at the first year of work it accomplished other discoveries “New Planet”.
The telescope, which is now through its primary mission, has discovered and gathered data to let scientists identify 21 new exo-planets already. But in between planet-spotting, the instrument, which is formally called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, has also involved in the process of seeing asteroids and comets — even comets in other solar systems. And TESS also are recording flashes from six different supernovas marking the explosions of dead stars.
“The pace and productivity of TESS in its first year of operations has far exceeded our most optimistic hopes for the mission,” George Ricker, TESS’s principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a statement. “In addition to finding a diverse set of exo-planets, TESS has discovered a treasure trove of astrophysical phenomena, including thousands of violently variable stellar objects.”
And scientists have many discoveries to look for from the: NASA announced earlier this month that it would give the TESS mission two extra years of operations, keeping it running through 2022.
The mission, was to launch with a budget capped at $200 million, spent its first year surveying the southern hemisphere. Now, it has turned its cameras on the northern skies to repeat a similar scan.
Throughout its work, TESS is focused on very bright stars located relatively close to Earth, and the instrument is tailored to identify and prioritize potential target planets for the James Webb Space Telescope to study in more detail once it launches in 2021. That instrument should be able to characterize planets’ atmospheres, an important step in evaluating habitability.
“Kepler discovered the amazing result that, on average, every star system has a planet or planets around it,” Padi Boyd, TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in the same statement. “TESS takes the next step. If planets are everywhere, let’s find those orbiting bright, nearby stars because they’ll be the ones we can now follow up with existing ground and space-based telescopes, and the next generation of instruments for decades to come.”