NASA’s newest planet hunter starts science operations

Washington: After a successful launch in April this year, NASA’s newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), has now started its search for planets around nearby stars.

Officially beginning science operations on July 25, TESS is expected to transmit its first series of science data back to Earth in August, and thereafter periodically every 13.5 days, once per orbit, as the spacecraft makes it closest approach to Earth, NASA said in a statement.

“I’m thrilled that our new planet hunter mission is ready to start scouring our solar system’s neighborhood for new worlds,” said NASA Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz.

“Now that we know there are more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the strange, fantastic worlds we’re bound to discover,” Hertz added.

TESS is NASA’s latest satellite to search for planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets.

The mission will spend the next two years monitoring the nearest and brightest stars for periodic dips in their light.

These events, called transits, suggest that a planet may be passing in front of its star.

TESS is expected to find thousands of planets using this method, some of which could potentially support life.