NASA has employed space-based telescopes to find answers to these questions for decades.
"In two seconds you could see things that were a hundred thousand to a million times fainter than what you could see with your naked eye", said Ricker, the mission's principal investigator.
"We expect TESS will discover a number of planets whose atmospheric compositions, which hold potential clues to the presence of life, could be precisely measured by future observers".
At last count NASA's planet finder has helped identify 2400 alien planets of all sizes, including entire solar systems, orbiting faraway stars. It really has a chance to find a rocky planet that's the right distance from its star, the right temperature to have life on its surface.
TESS will take the torch that Kepler lit and run with it. The deputy manager of the TESS Objects of Interest project, Natalia Guerrero said that a lot of the stars that Kepler found exoplanets around were extremely faint and really far away that made them really hard to follow up on from the ground, hence, TESS came about to be even more useful to the broader astronomical community.
But even though Kepler has discovered a swag of planets, we still know very little about alien worlds because most of the ones we've found are too far away to be easily studied by ground-based telescopes for hints of life.
Once blasted into space, it will eventually sit in a special orbit (red) that goes out to 250,000 kilometres then sweeps back to within 100,000 kilometres of Earth.
They both work on the same principle, which is really quite simple: when a planet (or anything else) passes between us and a star (a "transit"), the brightness of that star temporarily dims. "TESS will cast a wider net than ever before for enigmatic worlds".
"We learned from Kepler that there are more planets than stars in our sky, and now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars", he said.
The space-based telescope could also study all kinds of other celestial phenomena, including supernovas, flare stars and active galaxies.
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. Once it safely enters space, the craft will receive a timely gravitational assist from the moon, which will insert it into a highly eccentric orbit that brings it close to earth about every two weeks. "The TESS planets are going to be the ones you're going to look at".
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