Say hello to Pi Mensae c—a small, Earth-like planet located nearly 60 light-years from our Solar System. It’s probably not able to sustain life, but it’ll go down in history as the first exoplanet detected by NASA’s new TESS satellite.
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NASA's $US600 ($811) million Kepler space telescope, which is more or less running on thruster fuel fumes nearly a decade after its launch in 2009, woke up from a four-week hibernation phase on Thursday and is transmitting data back to Earth, Space.com reported on Friday. If all goes well, it may even be capable of continuing its mission to detect more exoplanets in distant star systems.
By searching for the telltale, periodic dimming of light from distant stars, astronomers can spot orbiting exoplanets tens to hundreds of light years away. But how do they know what these bodies look like? Perhaps they first try to imagine how the planets in our own Solar System might appear to a faraway alien world.
On the way to its final orbit around Earth, NASA's planet-hunting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has sailed by the moon and snapped its first picture of space. We've said several times that TESS would be able to look at 200,000 stars in the 300 light-years around the Earth - but maybe this new shot will show you what that really means.
On April 16, NASA is planning to launch its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. TESS is an Earth-orbiting instrument meant to spot faraway planets circling some 200,000 stars within 300 light-years of Earth. Astronomers hopes that TESS will help them learn whether or not there are other habitable planets, or even life beyond the Solar System. TESS can't do this alone, however.