The NASA planet-hunting probe registers wealth of stars in its first image

NASA's latest probe on the planetary yacht has returned its first scientific image, which captures a wealth of stars and other cosmic objects in the southern sky.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) returned part of the data from the original orbit of science. The images were captured using all wide-field cameras of the spacecraft during a period of 30 minutes on 7 August.

"In a sea of ​​stars bursting with new worlds, TESS casts a large network and will gather an abundance of promising planets for further study," said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA headquarters in Washington.

"This first scientific light image shows the capabilities of TESS cameras and shows that the mission will realize its incredible potential in our search for another earth," said Hertz.

First image by TESS

The black lines in the image are openings between the camera detectors. The images contain parts of a dozen constellations, from Capricornus to Pictor, and both the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the galaxies closest to ours.

The small bright point above the Small Magellanic Cloud is a spherical cluster – a globular collection of hundreds of thousands of stars – called NGC 104, also known as 47 Tucanae due to its location in the southern constellation Toucana, the Toucan.

Two stars, Beta Gruis and R Doradus, are so bright that they saturate an entire column of pixels on the detectors of TESS's second and fourth cameras, creating long light points.

"This Southern Hemisphere strip contains more than a dozen stars that we know have based transient planets on previous studies of ground observatories," said George Ricker, chief investigator at TESS at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the VS.

Operation of NASA's probe

The cameras from TESS monitor large parts of the sky to search for transits. Transits occur when a planet passes in front of its star from the perspective of the satellite, causing the brightness of the star to drop regularly.

The target stars of TESS are 30 to 300 light-years away and about 30 to 100 times brighter than the targets of Kepler, which are 300 to 3,000 light-years away.

The clarity of the goals of TESS makes them ideal candidates for a follow-up study with spectroscopy, the study of how matter and light interact.

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What is waiting for TESS?

TESS builds on the legacy of NASA & # 39; s Kepler spacecraft, which also uses transit to find exoplanets.

For two years, TESS will monitor 26 such sectors for 27 days, accounting for 85 percent of the air. During the first year of operation, the satellite will study the 13 sectors that make up the southern sky.

Then TESS will go to the 13 sectors of the northern sky to carry out a second year survey.

More about NASA & # 39; s probe in the field of hunting on the planet

The TESS science team at MIT wants to measure the mass of at least 50 small planets, of which the radii are less than four times the size of the Earth. Many of the TESS planets must be so close to ours that scientists, once identified by TESS, can zoom in with other telescopes to detect atmospheres, characterize atmospheric conditions and even look for signs of habitability.

Scientists from MIT and NASA will process the raw data and convert it into light curves that indicate the changing brightness of a star over time.

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