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NASA's new TESS satellite will help in the hunt for a second Earth

Elizabeth Fish | April 15, 2013
NASA takes its hunt for habitable planets up a notch by commissioning a new exoplanet-hunting satellite to launch in 2017.

Not content with the large volumes of exoplanets the space agency keeps finding in the universe, NASA wants to expand its hunt with a little help from a new satellite.

TESS, which stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, will be on the lookout for new, potentially habitable planets starting in 2017. Using a number of telescopes, the $200 million satellite will mainly focus on formations not too far from our own galaxy, paying particular attention to the habitable zones around stars.

The satellite will eventually become the successor to the Kepler Space Telescope, which so far has found over 100 exoplanets--not to mention the thousands of other unconfirmed candidates--since 2009. In fact, TESS might be able to spot the second Earth thanks in part to Kepler's observations.

The team behind TESS hopes the satellite will be able to identify around 1000 exoplanets in the first two years of its mission, as this will give NASA astronomers plenty of data to work on. Once data confirms that TESS has found as an exoplanet, the James Webb Space Telescope will study its atmosphere--an initial factor in determining whether a planet might be able to support life.


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