New Nasa mission searching for exoplanets which could harbour life

The JWST is currently being readied for launch. NASA  Chris Gunn

The JWST is currently being readied for launch. NASA Chris Gunn

They're now working towards a launch window the evening of Wednesday, 18 April.

NASA TV and SpaceX both will be live streaming the launch of the satellite. NASA stated that spacecraft will fly in a unique orbit that will allow it to study almost the entire sky over two years.

TAMPA-Nasa is poised to launch a $337 million washing machine-sized spacecraft that aims to vastly expand mankind's search for planets beyond our solar system, particularly closer, Earth-sized ones that might harbor life. The satellite is instead meant to create a catalogue of nearby planets that future telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, can then inspect more closely.

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TESS will survey far more cosmic terrain than its predecessor, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope which launched in 2009, taking in some 85 percent of the skies.

The postponement was announced about two hours before the planned blast off from a NASA launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX should also be broadcasting the launch, as well as its attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 on a droneship in the Atlantic.

"But the data on all these planets is interesting, because they help us form a picture of how planetary systems form and evolve". NASA insists there's no chance of Tess hitting any other satellites or running into the moon, which should never be anywhere close. "In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, TESS will search for tell-tale dips in the brightness of stars that indicate an orbiting planet regularly transiting across the face of its star".

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An artist's concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star.

NASA expects TESS will find tens of thousands of exoplanets. Its powerful vision will have the capability to analyse the atmospheres of some of Tess's new worlds, to look for gases that might hint at the presence of life. "It's going to be a game-changer in our ability to study planets". Kepler has found more than 2,300 confirmed exoplanets over its lifetime. "By looking at such a large section of the sky, this kind of stellar real estate, we open up the ability to cherry-pick the best stars for doing follow-up science", said Burt.

"One of the many awesome things that Kepler told us is that planets are everywhere and there are all kinds of planets out there", Patricia Boyd, TESS guest investigator program lead at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center, told reporters in advance of the scheduled launch.

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