Planet-hunting spacecraft to be launched in April

Planet-hunting spacecraft to be launched in April

After revealing that the Kepler Space Telescope will run out of fuel within several months, NASA has announced that it will be launching its next planet-hunting spacecraft on April 16. According to reports, the spacecraft will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

On March 28, the American space agency will discuss the upcoming launch of the mission called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

TESS is expected to find thousands of planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets, orbiting the nearest and brightest stars in our cosmic neighborhood.

The mission will find exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars, events called transits. Powerful telescopes like NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope can then further study these exoplanets to search for important characteristics, like their atmospheric composition and whether they could support life, NASA said.

TESS will survey 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for transiting exoplanets. According to a NASA overview of the mission, TESS scientists expect the mission will catalogue more than 2,000 planet candidates and vastly increase the current number of known exoplanets.

Of these, approximately 300 are expected to be Earth-sized and super Earth-sized exoplanets, which are worlds no larger than twice the size of Earth.

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