A stunning virtual tour of the moon, courtesy of NASA

Elon Musk to bypass environmental review for test tunnels in L.A

Elon Musk to bypass environmental review for test tunnels in L.A

NASA technicians have officially begun the assembly, test and launch operations (ATLO) phase of development on the agency's next Mars rover, keeping the project on track for an expected 2020 launch. Once in orbit, Tess will spend about two years surveying 200,000 of the brightest stars near the Sun to search for planets outside our solar system.

NASA's North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems (NAAMES) study is the first research mission to conduct an integrated study on world's largest phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic.

That schedule will limit TESS's ability to spot repeat transits, except for those planets orbiting closely around red dwarf stars, however by scanning almost all of the space around us, it still has a chance to pick up thousands, to tens of thousands of transiting planets during its initial 2-year scan, and possibly things that we cannot even anticipate at this time.

Planet hunting has exploded in the last 23 years since the first exoplanet discovery of 51 Pegasi b. Since red dwarfs are cooler than the Sun, habitable zone planets that revolve around them will orbit closer to their host star, making transits more frequent-and thus more scientifically useful.

The exoplanet count, from all observatories in space and on Earth over the past couple of decades, stands at more than 3,700 confirmed with 4,500 on the strong contender list.

"TESS's job is to find an old-fashioned address book of all the planets spread out around all the stars in the sky", said Sara Seager, astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT and deputy science director for the TESS mission.

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"Why would our solar system be unique?" "We've got a factor of a hundred more stars that we're going to be able to look at", Ricker said.

TESS will take the torch that Kepler lit and run with it. The spacecraft will scan nearly all of the sky for neighboring stars, searching for the dips in their brightness that signal the presence of a planet.

NASA and others stress that TESS will not look for atmospheric or other signs of life; it can't do that.

When a planet passes in front of the star, the star's light passes through the planet's atmosphere, using transit spectroscopy, the infrared telescope will look at the characteristics of that light to determine if there are life-supporting elements, including water.

"Currently, he is engaged in preparations and negotiations for a variety of future NASA science missions, such as the next Mars lander and rover, and the Europa Clipper, as well as missions with global partners".

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