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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — NASA's newest planet hunter is one year older and 24 identified exoplanets wiser.
The team behind the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) held the mission's first annual science conference here this week, a year after the spacecraft began gathering data from Earth orbit.
Monday - July - Example - Mission - Head
On Monday (July 29), for example, the mission’s head researcher, George Ricker, gave the audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) an update on TESS' progress since its April 2018 launch and the satellite’s future prospects as it begins to turn its focus toward the celestial Northern Hemisphere.
TESS' planet haul gets updated frequently, but according to NASA's Exoplanet Archive, the mission has already discovered 24 confirmed exoplanets and identified 993 potential alien worlds through data collection and analysis of observed exoplanet transits — in other words, by observing the telltale brightness dips exoplanets cause when crossing the faces of their host stars.
Ricker - Space - Com - Conference - Results
Ricker told Space.com later during the weeklong conference that these results have far exceeded the mission’s set goals at launch.
"The minimum thing we had to achieve for the mission in order to satisfy the fundamental scientific requirements that we were selected by NASA to fulfill was primarily based on making 2-minute cadences [observation intervals] of preselected stars," Ricker told Space.com.
Addition - Constraint - Ricker - TESS - Phenomena
In addition to satisfying that constraint, Ricker said, TESS has also observed other phenomena like supernovas and a "tidal disruption event" — that is, a star being "shredded" by a black hole. But, while those kinds of events are unpredictable, Ricker said we can expect many more consistent exoplanet discoveries from TESS in the future.
"There’s only the beginnings of a set of [exo]planets," Ricker continued. "We didn’t expect in the first two-year primary mission to find more than a handful of those. That number as we move into the extended mission will almost triple."
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