The Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX company successfully put into orbit the TESS space telescope, designed to search for planets from other stars. With the help of this telescope, developed by MIT and NASA, scientists expect to find several thousand candidates for exoplanets, of which about 300 may be earth-like. Broadcast launch was conducted at SpaceX YouTube-channel.
One of the main sources of data on planets outside the solar system in recent years was the Kepler space telescope. He opened several thousand candidates for exoplanets, of which more than 2,500 were confirmed . But in a few months the fuel on board the device will end and he will not be able to carry out his scientific program. TESS, although significantly different from Kepler, is regarded by scientists as its partial replacement as the main tool for searching for exoplanets.
The Falcon 9 rocket with TESS started on April 19 at 01:51 Moscow time from the cosmodrome at Cape Canaveral. Two and a half minutes later the first stage separated from the rocket, and after another six minutes it landed on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean. The telescope will operate in orbit with a perigee of 108 thousand kilometers and the apogee of 375 thousand kilometers. Every 13.7 days, TESS will pass the point of maximum convergence with the Earth and transmit to the ground station the collected data.
TESS has four telescopes with matrices of 16.8 megapixels resolution, operating in the spectral range from 600 to 1000 nanometers. Each of these telescopes has a field of view of 24 to 24 degrees, and they are directed in such a way that together they form a single field of view in the form of an elongated band. Once in 27 days the telescope will change the observation zone and in two years of the main mission will create a map covering 85 percent of the entire celestial sphere. In this he is very different from Kepler, who constantly watched the fragment in just a quarter of a percent of the sky. True, such a wide coverage entailed a serious shortcoming. The telescope will observe one segment for less than a month and because of this may not detect a planet with a long period of circulation. But TESS will have two zones,
A new space telescope will search for exoplanets by the transit method, which consists in measuring the apparent luminosity of the star. If a planet turns around the star, then, passing on its background, it will periodically change the apparent luminosity of the star. Measuring this change, astronomers can determine both the very presence of the planet, and some of its characteristics, for example, the size.
TESS will mainly monitor the stars located no further than 300 light-years from Earth and brightness of 30 to 100 times higher than those studied by Kepler. Scientists expect that the telescope will detect several thousand exoplanets, of which about 300 can be no more than twice the Earth. After the discovery of candidates for exoplanets using an orbiting telescope, the scientists will verify their missions with ground-based telescopes, as well as the planned space telescope “James Webb”
In early 2019, the European Space Agency plans to launch the CHEOPS telescope, which is also designed to study exoplanets. Its main goal is to study exoplanets already discovered, including with the help of TESS. Recently, its developers announced the completion of the construction of the telescope.