TESS has completed it’s primary mission successfully, but the hunt for exotic planets will continue. The main mission, which took two years, offered impressive results as more than 2,000 candidate planets have been found, and 66 planets have been confirmed officially.
Pleased by the results, NASA has decided to conduct an extended mission that will last until September 2022, allowing researchers to continue the hunt for planets similar to Earth and perform a large number of additional scientific observations that are usable for a significant number of scientific fields.
A popular tool
TESS was launched into the orbit of Earth in April 2018 and became fully operational after three months. The probe relies on the transit method to track down alien worlds, supervising stars, and waiting for short brightness reductions when orbiting planets will pass in front of them.
A similar approach was used in the case of Kepler, a famous space telescope that was officially retired in October 2018 and is credited for a large number of major discoveries. Even today, experts continue to make new discoveries as they study data collected by Kepler, including 3,000 candidate planets.
Surveying the sky
An array of four cameras is used by TESS to observe sectors of the sky, with the sectors being switched every month. During its first year, the probe analyzed the southern section of the sky and switched to the northern one during the second year.
NASA has also decided to make some changes, as the cameras will now capture new images every then minute, up to three times faster in comparison to the primary mission. A new fast mode is used to observe the brightness levels of thousands of stars every 20 seconds, gathering information about thousands of stars in minutes.
The additional expenses for the extended mission are quite low, and scientists are confident that major discoveries can be made in the future.