Вторник, 24 Апреля, 2018

Are we alone? Nasa's new planet hunter aims to find out

The spectrum of starlight passing through a planet’s atmosphere can tell us what the atmosphere is made The spectrum of starlight passing through a planet’s atmosphere can tell us what the atmosphere is made
Doris Mccormick | 17 Апреля, 2018, 21:47

However, an issue with SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which will blast off from Space Launch Complex 40 carrying NASA's planet-seeking spacecraft, has forced the company to scrub the first attempt to launch the TESS satellite.

The launch of TESS will be immediately beneficial to scientists down here on Earth, but the satellite will also lay the groundwork for future missions, most notably the European Space Agency's Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (ARIEL) spacecraft.

During its four-year mission, ARIEL will observe 1,000 planets, ranging from Jupiter and Neptune down to super-Earth size, in the visible and the infrared with its metre-class telescope.

Cosmos will bring details of the rescheduled launch as soon as they are known.

The TESS launch overview will begin at 11:00 followed by the prelaunch news conference at 13:30 EDT, a science news conference from 15:00 EDT and then live coverage from the countdown will run from 18:00 to 20:00.

Prime candidates from TESS's survey will, in turn, be studied in detail by NASA's powerful James Webb Space Telescope after its launch in 2020, by an upcoming European Space Agency space telescope and follow-on spacecraft as well as huge ground-based observatories now under construction.

The satellite will seek to find exoplanets that have the most promising conditions for supporting life, NASA said.

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Astronomers in the future, including those working with NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, are then expected to be able to study the atmospheres of numerous planets.

"TESS's legacy will be a catalog of the nearest and brightest stars hosting transiting exoplanets, which will comprise the most favorable targets for detailed investigations in the coming decades", NASA notes. Though Kepler Space Telescope has been doing the same job for years, the new satellite will advance its work and look for Earth-like planetary bodies orbiting some 200,000 brightest stars close to our sun. Kepler stared at 250,000 distant stars in a cross-shaped area equal to 0.25 percent of the sky, and identified the signatures of more than 5,000 confirmed planets and candidates.

TESS has a mirror diameter of 6.5 meters, which allows it to gather much more light than it can capture the Hubble Space Telescope.

"So we've optimized the field in such a way, because these are the types of stars that were really not possible to explore very well with Kepler".

That means a planet could potentially harbour alien life - or that it might one day be able to support humanity on our adventures off Earth.

"Once we find the planets associated with them, those are going to be the primary candidates that everyone - all astronomers for centuries to come - (are) going to focus on". We can say how massive they are and how old they are.

The satellite will look for transits or occasional light-blocking events that result due to the presence of a planet orbiting a star, according to a statement from NASA.

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