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NASA's New Space Telescope Captures 200 Thousand Stars

NASA’s new space telescope TESS sent back an image of 200 thousand stars. TESS was launched in April to search for earth-like planets outside of the solar system.  NASA announced this news on May 19.

The publicized image was TESS’s first shot in space. Around the constellation Centaurus, TESS captured more than 200 thousand stars.  At the bottom center of the image, slightly toward the left, is a brightly shining star Beta which is part of the constellation Centaurus.

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Image 1: The first image shot by TESS. The star Beta of the Centaurus sits at the bottom center, slightly to the left (Credits: NASA / MIT / TESS)

TESS was launched on April 18 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida, U.S.A. to look for earth-like extrasolar planets with signs of life.  On May 17, they succeeded in a lunar "fly-by”: to change orbit by using the moon’s gravity.  Equipped with four high-performance cameras, TESS can view huge portions of the sky, exceeding observation capacity by 400 times compared to the Kepler Space Telescope.  For maximized observation capacity, TESS’ final orbit was adjusted on May 30 so that it can start working full-scale by mid-June.

Planets outside the solar galaxy do not emit light like solar planets. Therefore, observation must be conducted from slight shadows that appear when a planet bypasses a star.  It is expected that TESS will capture these subtle phenomena and discover several thousand new extrasolar planets.

As a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which accomplished many successful missions, NASA is planning to launch the James Webb Space Telescope in 2020.  It will closely monitor earth-like extrasolar planets discovered by TESS and will thoroughly observe if there is an environment where living organisms can survive.


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Image 2: Imaginary view of TESS at work (Credits: MIT)