Tess Mission Milestone: Researchers Find 5,000 Potential Alien Worlds

Astronomers from the TESS space telescope team have summed up the interim results for the first three years of its work. The number of found candidates for exoplanets amounted to 5210, of which 177 have already been confirmed by observational data from ground-based telescopes.


TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) went into space in the spring of 2018, and scientific observations began a few months after launch. The telescope searches for exoplanets near bright stars close to the Sun, tracking periodic dips in their brightness during the passage of the planet across the disk of the star.

At the same time, unlike the Kepler telescope, the search covers 85 percent of the entire sky, divided into 26 sectors. Of primary interest to TESS are small planets, especially rocky ones, that may be in the habitable zone of their stars.

The telescope is most sensitive to exoplanets with an orbital period of fewer than 13 days but is also able to find objects with a period of more than 100 days.

A map of the sky with all the exoplanet candidates discovered by the Tess Telescope. Credit: NASA/MIT/TESS
A map of the sky with all the exoplanet candidates discovered by the Tess Telescope. Credit: NASA/MIT/TESS

TESS sent the first image in May 2018 but started work only at the end of July, and already in mid-September 2019, it became known about the first exoplanet discovered by them. In July 2019, TESS completed a survey of the southern hemisphere of the celestial sphere, having received a huge amount of scientific data.

In mid-2020, the telescope completed its main science program, having scanned about 75 percent of the celestial sphere, after which it embarked on an extended science program that includes the northern and southern hemispheres of the sky, the ecliptic region, and areas previously observed by the Kepler telescope.

By 2021, the number of exoplanet candidates found by TESS (this requires observing two planetary transit events across the disk of a star) exceeded 2,400.

On January 20, 2022, the leaders of the TESS science program from the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology summed up the current interim results of the work.

The number of found candidates for exoplanets amounted to 5210 pieces, of which 177 have already been confirmed by observational data from ground-based telescopes. For comparison, the Kepler telescope discovered just over 3,600 exoplanet candidates in its first three years of operation.

TESS makes discoveries not only in the field of exoplanetology, but also in astrophysics – it discovered type Ia supernova explosions in distant galaxies and the event of tidal destruction of a star by a supermassive black hole, saw the optical afterglow of a gamma-ray burst, and even discovered possible exocomets.

We have covered dozens of TESS-related news over the past couple of years. Here are some of the most notable discoveries to date:

• Record-Breaking Plasma Explosion From Sun-Like Star Baffles Experts
• Peculiar Alien World in Outer Space Is Lightest Exoplanet Found to Date
 A Hellish Planet in Outer Space; Its Heat Shreds Molecules Apart Into Atoms
• Astronomers Find “Ocean World” Which Could Support Life


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Sources:

Bartels, M. (2022, January 26). NASA planet-hunting mission finds 5,000 possible alien worlds in less than 4 years. Space.com.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (n.d.). Tess Science Office at MIT Hits milestone of 5,000 Exoplanet candidates. MIT News.
O’Neill, M. (2022, January 24). Doubling planets: Tess science office at MIT Hits milestone of 5,000 Exoplanet candidates. SciTechDaily.

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Source: Curiosmos

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