Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite - NASA

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite - NASA

TESS is backed by NASA and has a mission to look for planets orbiting the brightest star. The mission is headed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) seed funding from Google.

· 3 min read

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite - NASA - Background Context

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was launched on 18th April 2018 to search for potential exoplanets, which in return has explored the vastness of the space and identified the third planet outside of the solar system. TESS is the successor of Kepler.

The Potential New Planet

The potential identified new planet conferred as HD 21749b has its own mini solar system, we can say that because it orbits or revolves around the bright star and has the longest revolution time period. According to the data, the surface of the plant has a temperature of more than 100 degrees Celsius. The distance of this planet (HD21749b is roughly around 53 light-years and located in the constellation Reticulum.

Photo by NASA / Unsplash

Brief about TESS mission

TESS is backed by NASA and has a mission to look for planets orbiting the brightest star. The mission is headed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) seed funding from Google.


The expedition is to scan and detect a mass group of 200k starts for some signs of exoplanets of all shapes and sizes (Earth-size to Massive super gas giants). A similar mission was headed by Kepler but TESS will concentrate on stars that are thirty to a hundred times brighter than those scanned and recorded by Kepler Mission. This data from the TESS mission will assist scientist communities, astronomers, and astrophysics to understand the ingredients for the formation of solar systems and it will also through some light onto the formation of our own solar system.

Orbit of TESS

TESS will be placed into high earth elliptical orbit (P/2), which will make TESS revolve around the earth every 13.7 days with a perigee (closest point to the Earth) of 107826 km and apogee (farthest point from the Earth) of 173810 km. This distance of TESS is more than three times the orbit of the earth’s communication satellite.

How does it work?

The method of detecting planets is called the Transit Method. In this method, the bright star is observed for a continuous period and carefully observed for any sudden dip in its brightness (usually 1%), usually due to the passage of a planet or other unidentified objects. The repetitive dips will advocate the existence of the planet orbiting the star.

It will use the transit method to detect potential exoplanets. It watches stars at a distance for small dips in their brightness, which can indicate that a planet or any other heavenly body has passed in front of them. Repeated and continuous dips will specify the planet passing in front of its star (i.e. The planet is rotating the star). This data or information collected, has to be validated by regular and continuous observations and verified by scientists.

Significance of the mission TESS

TESS is instituted on the framework of Kepler (TESS’s predecessor). Kepler during its mission lifetime had discovered 3700 exoplanets and documented them for the scientific community.

Kepler's mission was halted because it had, run out of fuel.

Not all data forwarded by TESS be used, scientists narrow down their approach to earth size planets or Super-Earth twice the size of the earth.

These Earth-Size and Super-Earth are believed to accommodate the likely features of rocky surfaces and oceans of water, which are basic ingredients for life to evolve.
TESS is believed to document/record the 100 most preferred exoplanets (rocky surface and oceans of water) for further exploration of their potential chance to sustain life.