TESS-ting, TESS-ting, 1, 2, 3

January 11, 2019
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

It launched last April and only started surveying the sky and space around it since July, but TESS, otherwise known as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, has already reported back some pretty fascinating things about the parts of space that we earthlings know very little about. Yep, it’s been working hard and doing exactly what it was designed to do: look for planets orbiting distant stars. How? Well, TESS watches for changes in the light of about 200,000 stars at a time. When there’s a dip in light, there’s a high likelihood that a planet passed by. Since TESS has been monitoring the sky, it has discovered three new planets! Pi Mensae B orbits its star once every six days and is dubbed a “super-Earth” for its size (it’s about twice the size of Earth) and similarities like an iron core. LHS 3844b is a rocky planet that orbits its star in a speedy eleven hours. The last of the planets that were discovered is HD21749b. It’s humongous at approximately twenty-three times the size of Earth and orbits its star once every thirty-six days!

What do you think TESS will discover next?

Interesting fact: TESS is the first space probe that hitched a ride with SpaceX’s Falcon 9, the first rocket to be launched by a company without the assistance of a government agency like NASA. Out of this world, right?