The TESS spacecraft is the newest tool in the search for planets beyond the solar system. The vehicle is designed to look at stars, searching for dips in brightness as planets pass between their sun and our home world.
Over its scheduled two-year mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, will examine over 200,000 stars, in the search for other worlds. Roughly 3,700 such planets in other solar systems are now known to scientists.
Officials with NASA believe this new mission could find 20,000 additional worlds beyond our own family of planets. Of these, as many as 500 could be similar to Earth.
“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 officials explained.
The TESS mission will study some of the brightest stars in the night sky, most fairly close to the Earth. During its first two years in space, TESS is expected to examine 85 percent of the sky, hunting for alien worlds.
In 2009, NASA launched the Kepler spacecraft, which discovered all but 1,000 of the known alien worlds. However, that mission is coming to an end, as the observatory runs out of fuel.