By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There are a lot of stars out there, but the ones that are brightest and closest to earth will be the target of TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite). It’s a space telescope that will pick up where the Kepler telescope left off.

Kepler detected signs of thousands of possible exoplanets orbiting other stars, raising speculation about what they might be like.

According to TESS team member Dr. Jennifer Burt, theories range from “rings a hundred time larger than Saturn, to planets that have molten surfaces because they are so close to their stars, to atmospheres where it might rain rubies.”

“We learn about this crazy diversity of exoplanets that we just never thought existed, based on our own solar system,” Dr. Burt added.

Like Kepler, TESS won’t actually see planets, but infer them as they pass in front of their stars.

“And if we see evidence of these repeated dimmings of the star’s brightness, those were likely caused by a planet passing in front of its star,” she said.

Thousands of new exoplanets are expected to be discovered. What TESS finds will then become targets for an even more advanced spacecraft; the James Webb Space Telescope. It will see further than Hubble, with instruments capable of analyzing the atmospheres of exoplanets.

According to Dr. Burt, the Webb Telescope will be looking for a planet “where it could have liquid water on its surface.”

A planet like earth, that is capable of supporting life.

NASA is set to launch TESS next week.

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Alex DeMetrick


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