CAPE CANAVERAL – Extraterrestrial life will not find them. But Tess, a new space telescope, can take us a step closer to an answer on the question: is there somewhere in the universe another planet where perhaps life is possible. The American explorer, is launched in the night of Monday to Tuesday (Dutch time). The launch is scheduled for 00.32 hours Dutch time.
Tess stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. That refers to the way in which he works. Exoplanets are too small to see. But if such a planet for its star pass (transition), the light of the star is a bit dimmed, because the planet is a little bit of starlight from entering. Tess meet that, and thus scientists can calculate how many planets there are, how big they are and how long they take to get around their star turn.
Scientists think that the odds of extraterrestrial life is the greatest on a planet like the earth: not too hot and not too cold, are rocky and have liquid water. The scientists behind the mission expect to be with Tess thousands of planets will discover, a few tens as large as the earth and a few hundreds of that something bigger.
Tess is the sister of the American space telescope Kepler, which was launched in 2009 and now at the end of his life. The Kepler discovered thousands of planets, but most of them are very far away. Tess looks closer, in our ‘backyard’. There are approximately 200,000 bright stars. Planets that move around them, are then easier to study. And there is still a difference: the Kepler zooms in on a small piece of the sky, Tess looks at an area that is approximately four hundred times as large.
Scientists knew a very long time, only the planets in our solar system: Mercury, Venus, earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Until 2006, it was Pluto as a planet. In the early 90’s showed that the sun is not the only star that planets around them had, and the last couple of years very hard. Meanwhile, there are more than 3,700 so-called exoplanets have been confirmed. In addition, there are about 4,500 candidates, or planets whose existence is not yet completely established. How many planets are there in the universe, it is impossible to determine: there are hundreds of billions of galaxies, each galaxy has many billions of stars and may have by far the most stars have one or more planets.