NASA has extended the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) mission by two years, to keep it operational until at least 2022. The spacecraft was repositioned recently as researchers plan to explore the northern sky. More than 1,000 exoplanets were observed within the first year of the mission.
The initial schedule involved a two-year mission, but the milestone was reached on July 2018 when the survey of the southern sky was completed successfully. The decision to extend the project until 2022 came in the light of the discoveries which were made with TESS and the potential two track down new objects in the future.
A complex four-camera setup involves the use of 16.8MP high sensitivity sensors which can trace the dimming of stars, a phenomenon which takes places when an orbiting planet passes by the front. At $337 million the cost is quite impressive, but the initiative has been appreciated by researchers from all over the world as TESS managed to collect a large number of images which have been used in several studies.
TESS was released as a follow-up to Kepler, one of the most iconic spacecraft. Kepler was retired in 2018 after it spent almost a decade on the hunt for exoplanets. In comparison to Kepler, which was built with the exploration of distant points in mind, TESS has been designed to look for planets which in the proximity of our solar system.
According to a researcher, the incredible quality and amount of data sent by these were higher than even the most optimistic predictions. Besides a vast number of exoplanets, TESS observed interesting space phenomena, including lots of variable star objects.
By August 3 astronomers have employed data from TESS to identify several 28 complex solar system and 993 potential exoplanets. As the planets observed by TESS are considerably closer to Earth, scientists have a better chance to observe them and learn more about their climate and structure.