SpaceX Is About to Launch NASA's Latest Satellite

She told reporters on the eve of the launch: 'It was created to look at 150,000 stars in a fairly wide field of view without blinking, for four years.

TESS stands for "Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite" - in German: satellite for the collection of passing exoplanets.

Additional partners include Orbital ATK, NASA's Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

NASA's Kepler space observatory used the same method to detect more than 2,600 confirmed exoplanets, most orbiting faint stars 300 to 3,000 light years away. If the mission can not launch within this short period of time today, NASA has backup launch opportunities penciled in for almost every day until April 26th. It was proposed two years later as an important NASA mission and eventually approved in 2013. TESS will screen an area 350 times larger. It will work to look through the closest, brightest stars for indications of intermittent darkening.

"We're expecting to find 2,000-3,000 planets that are certainly below the size of our Jupiter and majority below the size of Neptune; so, the ones that have the potential for being terrestrial, for being rocky", said Jennifer Burt from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which leads the mission.

"I don't think you'll see much in the way of clouds at all, so it should be good viewing conditions, as long as those winds do drop off", said Mike McAleenan, the launch weather officer from the Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron.

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When Tess does get up, it will stare at stars for weeks at a time, hoping to catch the dips in brightness that occur when orbiting worlds traverse their faces.

Ricker said: 'TESS is going to dramatically increase the number of planets that we have to study.

Over the course of its two-year mission, TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) will scan nearly the entire sky, using four cameras to snap images of more than 200,000 stars. CHEOPs and the other scopes will then figure out the position, mass, density, atmosphere and other data about the planets. After its two-year mission, TESS will be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope, a space telescope scheduled to launch in May 2020.

Kepler was created to do its work in the most boring way possible: by staring unblinking at a single ten-degree by ten-degree square in the 360-degree bowl of the sky, looking for the tiny dimming of light that occurs when an orbiting planet passes in front of its star.

NASA scientists are also hosting a Reddit AMA over on r/science. "Of course, we won't yet know whether there is anything, or anyone, there breathing it". Yet red dwarfs are actually the galactic norm, making up about 70 percent of all stars, says Philip Muirhead, assistant professor of astronomy at Boston University. This will further reveal whether the planets are rocky (like Earth), gas giants (like Jupiter) or something out of the ordinary. And if any issues arise, there will be other launch opportunities throughout the month, but not every day.

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