NASA Unveils Its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite     

Last April 18, 2018, NASA revealed its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). It was their latest and more innovative telescope to find various planets beyond the solar system. Meanwhile, it is said that the astronomers from the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy and Maunakea telescopes will be a big part of the said adventure. 

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket hit TESS into an elliptical orbit wherein it will survey most of the sky in the next two years. The MIT-led TESS mission will be conducted following NASA’s successful Kepler Space Telescope that discovered planets found commonly around the stars. The main purpose of TESS is to discover planets around brighter and closer stars. Thus, it will help scientists to study them by simply using telescopes like those on Maunakea. 

According to Daniel Huber, an astronomer at Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who also led two TESS programs funded by NASA, “TESS will be a game-changer for our understanding of planets and the stars that they orbit. The sheer number of stars for which TESS will provide data- 10 to 100 times more than Kepler- is bound to yield some very exciting surprises.”

Meanwhile, Huber is specifically interested in utilizing TESS data to detecting oscillations in stars, the tiny starquakes which cause stars to differ in brightness,” Huber stated. “Using these oscillations we can precisely measure fundamental properties of stars, such as their sizes and masses. This also provides vital clues to understand better the planets that orbit them.”

With NASA’s TESS, planets will be discovered, and at the same time, data will serve as a goldmine to study the behavior of stars. TESS will detect tiny dips in the light on a particular star as orbiting planets will block some of the stars’ light. TESS can survey both the southern and northern sky. With this, the observatories of Hawaii will be situated in a unique way to observe stars in all hemispheres. 

Moreover, the latter survey satellite will also play an important part to study the death of stars known as supernovae. It will come in precise observations after its explosion. When TESS takes place into its orbit, it will pass through a calibration phase, with the first scientific data that is expected to deliver on the late part of this year. If the mission is successful, TESS will keep on providing data in the next years.