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Published on Apr 11, 2013
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will discover thousands of exoplanets in orbit around the brightest stars in the sky. In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, TESS will monitor more than 500,000 stars for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. This first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. No ground-based survey can achieve this feat.
TESS stars will be 30-100 times brighter than those surveyed by the Kepler satellite; thus,TESS planets will be far easier to characterize with follow-up observations. For the first time it will be possible to study the masses, sizes, densities, orbits, and atmospheres of a large cohort of small planets, including a sample of rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their host stars. TESS will provide prime targets for characterization with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), as well as other large ground-based and space-based telescopes of the future.
TESS will serve as the "People's Telescope," with data releases every 4 months, inviting immediate community-wide efforts to study the new planets. The TESS legacy will be a catalog of the nearest and brightest main-sequence stars hosting transiting exoplanets, which will forever be the most favorable targets for detailed investigations.
TESS was selected by NASA for launch in 2017 as an Astrophysics Explorer mission. Dr. George Ricker of MIT serves as the TESS principal investigator.