TESS Telescope

Latest news about the TESS Telescope

AS part of our regular features about the latest technology telescopes, we think it is important to highlight the TESS Telescope.

What is the TESS telescope?

TESS Telescope - The Earth and the MoonThe Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is nicknamed TESS for short.  As the name suggests, TESS is a telescope that has been designed to assist in the search for habitable planets.  The aim of this latest development in the world of long range telescopes is to assist the function of the current Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009.  Like the Kepler, TESS is a satellite based telescope which will be free from the effects of Earth’s atmosphere, and therefore have a much clearer view of the stars, and hopefully other exoplanets.


Not to be confused with the James Webb Telescope!

We have already published an article on the development of the James Webb Telescope.  The James Webb offers a technology improvement over the incredible Hubble Space Telescope, and will serve to increase our knowledge of the secrets of deep space.


What is an exoplanet?

In a sign of just how quickly technology is improving our knowledge of deep space, scientists have discovered the existence of more than 2000 exoplanets in orbit around distant stars.  These are planetary bodies far beyond our own solar system, but here is much to learn.  As little as 10 years ago, we barely knew about the existence of exoplanets.  And even now, there are many questions about the nature of these distant planets.  But the most important aspect in terms of scientific discovery, is whether these exoplanets can support life.


We need to take a closer look

And this is where the TESS Telescope is important.  TESS will be able to focus with higher resolution, and it will also have a much greater ability to transfer the data back to scientists on Earth.  In fact, TESS is expected to be able to cover 400 times more space than Kepler can, and hopefully will be able to discover many more exoplanets.  Maybe thousands more exoplanets!


What are we looking for through the TESS Telescope?

The search for alien planets is not just about trying to count the number of planets out there.  The trick is to find exoplanets in the so called “goldilocks zone”.  This refers to a band of planets that orbit their own Sun at a similar distance to that which Earth orbits our Sun. What scientists are looking for is a range of temperature and physical parameters similar to our own, where there is the highest potential for life to exist.  We can extrapolate the knowledge that we already have from our own solar system.  Planets such as Mercury are very small and very hot.  Planets such as Jupiter are too large and cold.  Just like Goldilocks, we need it to be just right!  So the trick for scientists is to identify those planets with the best chance for life to exist, as opposed to just finding the biggest planets which are visible from a long distance away.


TESS Telescope knows where to look

The TESS telescope will have several advantages over the current technology Kepler Space Telescope.  For a start, it will be able to scan the entire picture of space, including those visible to both the northern and southern hemispheres.  It will have a much higher data processing and transmission power, which will enable it to “see” with much greater detail and magnification.  Scientists will also be able to use the TESS telescope to concentrate on red dwarf stars.


Why are red dwarf stars important?

Scientists are particularly interested in red dwarf stars because they are more common in the Milky Way galaxy, and offer the greater chance of finding exoplanets in the Goldilocks zone.  Red Dwarf stars are smaller and cooler than other stars, and in some cases seem to support a larger number of orbiting planets.  This means there is a greater chance of not only spotting a potential exoplanet, but it may well be closer to Earth, and potentially be able to be studied in more detail.


There are many more things we can learn about exoplanets

With the latest technology telescope such as the TESS telescope, scientists hope to be able to learn more than ever before.  Currently, we can only extrapolate what we know about our own Solar System, and use that to predict what a distant exoplanet might be like.  There are clues to be researched.  Scientists can measure the size of both the Star and the Exoplanet.  Scientists can measure the orbit speed, and the time taken to complete an orbit.  This offers some fundamental information about the planet, thereby determining the length of the planetary year.  There may also be clues about the atmosphere of the planet, if there is one.  But otherwise scientists will have to guess at things like temperature and types of materials present.


What do we know already?

For now, scientists will have to satisfy themselves with measuring the tiny oscillations in the light from a distant star.  When a planet orbits across the face of the star, the TESS telescope measures the faint dip in the light received from the star.


The TESS Telescope will help us to see so much more

Despite the meager amount of information that scientists currently have to work with, there is still so much to learn.  And there is no doubt that being able to make much more accurate measurements of the distant oscillations of the stars will improve our knowledge.


Who wants to learn about Aliens?

Who knows what is out there?  No matter what is out there, we always need the latest technology telescope to find out more.   Who knows what we will be able to see with the TESS Telescope?


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