UPSC Mains General Studies Paper III

Topic: Science and Technology

Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology.

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has started its operations

  • TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) has officially started its science operations.
  • Its first observations will be transmitted back to Earth at some point in August
  • It will continue to send in new information for the next two years, at least.

When and how TESS was launched?

  • TESS was launched on April 18th 2018.
  • It was launched with the help of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket which sent the satellite into an elliptical orbit around Earth.

What is TESS Mission?

  • The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a NASA mission that will look for planets orbiting the brightest stars in Earth’s sky.
  • TESS  will monitor at least 200,000 stars for signs of exoplanets, ranging from Earth-sized rocky worlds to huge gas giant planets.
  • TESS, however, will focus on stars that are 30 to 100 times brighter than those Kepler examined.
  • It was led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with seed funding from Google.
  • TESS will occupy a never-before-used orbit high above Earth. The elliptical orbit, called P/2, is exactly half of the moon’s orbital period; this means that TESS will orbit Earth every 13.7 days.

Size-exaggerated artist's conception showing the ratio of planets to stars in our galaxy


How TESS works?

  • TESS uses transit method to detect exoplanets.
  • It watches distant stars for small dips in brightness, which can indicate that planet has passed in front of them. Repeated dips will indicate planet passing in front of its star.
  • This data has to be validated by repeated observations and verified by scientists.

What is the main purpose of TESS?

  • This mission help astronomers better understand the structure of solar systems outside of our Earth, and provide insights into how our own solar system formed.

What is the difference between TESS mission and Kepler mission?

  •  TESS and Kepler answers different questions. Kepler answers how common are true Earth analogs whereas TESS answers where are the nearest transiting rocky planets
  • TESS will look at stars that are nearer and brighter than the ones Kepler has studied.
  • TESS is an all-sky survey. Kepler only looks at 1/400 of what TESS will observe in the sky.
  • Many Kepler exoplanets cannot be followed up by ground based telescopes for mass measurements since they are too far away. TESS opens that door because it looks at the nearest and brightest stars, where we can follow up with ground-based telescopes.

Size comparison of Jupiter and the exoplanet TrES-3b

What is an Exoplanet?

  • An exoplanet or extrasolar planet is a planet outside our solar system.

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