Nasa's mission to find a new Earth (and say hi to aliens)


The spacecraft is estimated about $337 million and it is of a washing machine-sized spacecraft. When a planet transits its star, some of the starlight passes through the planet's atmosphere before reaching Earth.

Fortunately, its successor, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is readily sitting in the nose cone of a rocket at Florida.

While the Kepler was able to survey a very specific part of the sky for exoplanets, finding worlds of many sizes, TESS will help researchers find more planets that are around the same size as Earth, helping scientists along in the search for a world out there in the universe like our own. Much like NASA's Kepler space observatory, TESS will use its high-spec tech to pinpoint undiscovered planets. The satellite is not specifically meant to look for planets that can support life, but it can find planets orbiting in the habitable zone of small stars, said Seager, who serves as a deputy science director on TESS.

During this time, TESS will study and document 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for any transiting exoplanets.

They hope to find other Earth like planets - ones that may contain water or a rocky surface. After the launch, TESS would refine its orbit for two months before it starts data collection. A lot of follow-up work will go into determining whether these candidates are truly planets, rather than binary stars, artifacts in the data or something else.

The NASA-funded spaceship is not larger than a refrigerator and has four cameras that were designed, conceived, and built at MIT, with a single wide-eyed vision, which is to survey the nearest and brightest stars in the sky for the signs of passing planets.

If humans are to truly become a "multi-planet species" as Elon Musk envisions the future, it will not be possible to do so without actually conceiving and giving birth in places that are not Earth. But when you think about the sheer number of stars in the sky - and by the way, planets outnumber them - it's not so insane.

"One of the cool things that've realised is we should discover some gravitational wave sources, kilonova, with TESS", Dr Tucker said.

The TESS launch is scheduled for 18:32 EDT (23:32 BST) and will be broadcast live on NASA TV. The first year of observations will map the 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky, and the second year will map the 13 sectors of the northern sky.

But if Kepler was a telephoto aimed at dim targets far in the distance, TESS is an ultra-wide-angle lens that will watch almost the entire visible sky. "Oxygen is our best biosignature gas on Earth", Seager said, so we're looking for what we know.

The NASA team stressed in its announcement that Tess does not and can not look for atmospheric signs of life. Even subtle differences can be easily identified and it is vital to know how they can affect the viability of the sperm itself.