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NASA’s TESS: What You Need to Know
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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration just launched a new satellite with the intent of discovering signs of life on other planets.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS for short, is going to spend the next two years scanning the sky looking for alien life. Because there are more planets in the Milky Way than there are stars, NASA is checking to see if any of them are home to anything alive… or if they could support human life.
“With the planets that TESS finds, we're going to be able to use a different set of telescopes and then try to find out if any of them are indeed somewhat like Earth,” said Sara Seager, an MIT researcher who is working on the project. “The most important thing, I think, would be to find signs of water vapor in a small planet atmosphere, because all life as we know it needs liquid water.”
TESS is expected to be able to detect about 20,000 new planets – many of which are about the size of Earth. The planets they discover will then become subjects of intensive study. Astronomers are mainly looking for planets orbiting red dwarf stars, which live for a long time; that’s because scientists believe there would be plenty of time for life to emerge and evolve on a planet near a red dwarf. The biggest challenge, though, is that red dwarves are known for sending out huge blasts of UV and X-ray radiation that could destroy life – so researchers might not find anything at all.
NASA plans to announce its first findings later this year, which would kick off new rounds of research and exploration.
What Do You Think?
Do you think there’s a possibility that NASA will find something with TESS, or is this a wasted effort? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or Twitter.