New planet-hunting satellite TESS sends NASA its first image

In the first test image since its April launch, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) captured the constellation Centaurus, one of the largest in the Milky Way Galaxy.

TESS NASA first image

Unlike NASA’s Kepler, an exoplanet-hunting satellite that orbits the sun in search for exoplanets, TESS will orbit between the Earth and the Moon while checking for possible exoplanets orbiting nearby stars.  It will also monitor stars 30 to 100 times brighter and an area 400 times larger than Kepler, allowing other telescopes data to more easily perform follow-up observations.  This increase in capability will prove even more important in coming months, as Kepler is expected to run out of fuel soon, leaving the work up to Tess.

Despite their technological differences, both satellites use the transit method to identify exoplanets: They take images of the sky and monitor for periodic changes in light that show planets are orbiting a star.  The amount of light dimmed tells the size of the star, as well as details about its orbit. Scientists then use this information to further study the exoplanets from ground telescopes and other satellites, and as a result, they can determine attributes including the mass and composition of the atmosphere.

In other words, if you’re excited about finding more Earth-like planets in our solar system, and you’ve loved getting updates from Kepler’s mission, get pumped up about the forthcoming images from TESS!



Krista's a freelance proofreader and writer who spends most days eyeballing medical texts, others crafting stories for teen games. Sometimes she even makes a few bucks with photography. One thing's always true--she's got a hot geek streak for historical and scientific discovery.

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