NASA's planet hunting probe launch delayed


Next, astronomers on Earth will measure the way the planet's gravity makes the star wobble as it orbits - an observation that will provide the planet's mass.

The TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey) satellite is hours from launching, and everyone is excited to watch the exoplanet hunter blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida later today (April 16).

Armed with four sensitive cameras, the refrigerator-sized satellite will seek out the tiny, telltale dips in a star's light that occur when a planet "transits", or passes in front of it.

"They are going to be orbiting the nearest, brightest stars", Elisa Quintana, TESS scientist at Nasa's Goddard Spaceflight Centre, told reporters on Sunday. Using the so-called transit method, it spotted planets by watching for the dimming of a star, the telltale sign that a planet passed across its face.

"We can start to find out, how does planet occurrence vary as a function of the type of star and the age of the star?" "This is the future".

"S will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars", Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division director, said in a statement.

"Humans have wondered forever whether we were alone in the universe, and until 25 years ago the only planets we knew about were the eight in our own solar system", he told reporters on the eve of the TESS launch.

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The ageing spacecraft is now low on fuel and near the end of its life. The mission is expected to catalog thousands of planet candidates and vastly increase the current number of known exoplanets. But Kepler, for its primary mission at least, only looked at a very small patch of sky, and many of its discoveries were simply too far away or too dim for other telescopes to pursue with further analysis. After its two-year mission, TESS will be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope, a space telescope scheduled to launch in May 2020.

"This is opening an entirely new window on the universe", said MIT astrophysicist George Ricker, the principal investigator for the mission. Though Kepler Space Telescope has been doing the same job for years, the new satellite will advance its work and look for Earth-like planetary bodies orbiting some 200,000 brightest stars close to our sun.

This Monday, a new space telescope is traveling.

The highly anticipated TESS launch is happening today, giving NASA scientists a more powerful tool in space to discover more worlds.

TESS data is available to the public here, so you can stay apprised of our search for Earth-like exoplanets.

A good numerous new planets will be relatively close - within a few dozen light-years of Earth.

At the moment when the spacecraft launches, astronomers will know of almost 4,000 alien worlds outside our solar system.