NASA’s New Planet Hunter Reveals a Sky Full of Stars

NASA’s newest planet-hunting satellite — the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS for short — has just released its first science image using all of its cameras to capture a huge swath of the sky! TESS is NASA’s next step in the search for planets outside our solar system, called exoplanets.

This spectacular image, the first released using all four of TESS’ cameras, shows the satellite’s full field of view. It captures parts of a dozen constellations, from Capricornus (the Sea Goat) to Pictor (the Painter’s Easel) — though it might be hard to find familiar constellations among all these stars! The image even includes the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, our galaxy’s two largest companion galaxies.

The science community calls this image “first light,” but don’t let that fool you — TESS has been seeing light since it launched in April. A first light image like this is released to show off the first science-quality image taken after a mission starts collecting science data, highlighting a spacecraft’s capabilities.

TESS has been busy since it launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. First TESS needed to get into position, which required a push from the Moon. After nearly a month in space, the satellite passed about 5,000 miles from the Moon, whose gravity gave it the boost it needed to get into a special orbit that will keep it stable and maximize its view of the sky.

During those first few weeks, we also got a sneak peek of the sky through one of TESS’s four cameras. This test image captured over 200,000 stars in just two seconds! The spacecraft was pointed toward the constellation Centaurus when it snapped this picture. The bright star Beta Centauri is visible at the lower left edge, and the edge of the Coalsack Nebula is in the right upper corner.

After settling into orbit, scientists ran a number of checks on TESS, including testing its ability to collect a set of stable images over a prolonged period of time. TESS not only proved its ability to perform this task, it also got a surprise! A comet named C/2018 N1 passed through TESS’s cameras for about 17 hours in July.

The images show a treasure trove of cosmic curiosities. There are some stars whose brightness changes over time and asteroids visible as small moving white dots. You can even see an arc of stray light from Mars, which is located outside the image, moving across the screen.

Now that TESS has settled into orbit and has been thoroughly tested, it’s digging into its main mission of finding planets around other stars. How will it spot something as tiny and faint as a planet trillions of miles away? The trick is to look at the star!

So far, most of the exoplanets we’ve found were detected by looking for tiny dips in the brightness of their host stars. These dips are caused by the planet passing between us and its star – an event called a transit. Over its first two years, TESS will stare at 200,000 of the nearest and brightest stars in the sky to look for transits to identify stars with planets.

TESS will be building on the legacy of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which also used transits to find exoplanets. TESS’s target stars are about 10 times closer than Kepler’s, so they’ll tend to be brighter. Because they’re closer and brighter, TESS’s target stars will be ideal candidates for follow-up studies with current and future observatories.

TESS is challenging over 200,000 of our stellar neighbors to a staring contest! Who knows what new amazing planets we’ll find?

The TESS mission is led by MIT and came together with the help of many different partners. You can keep up with the latest from the TESS mission by following mission updates.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

10 Things: Why Cassini Mattered

One year ago, on Sept. 15, 2017, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ended its epic exploration of Saturn with a planned dive into the planet’s atmosphere–sending back new science to the last second. The spacecraft is gone, but the science continues. Here are 10 reasons why Cassini mattered…

1. Game Changers

Cassini and ESA (European Space Agency)’s Huygens probe expanded our understanding of the kinds of worlds where life might exist.

2. A (Little) Like Home

At Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, Cassini and Huygens showed us one of the most Earth-like worlds we’ve ever encountered, with weather, climate and geology that provide new ways to understand our home planet.

3. A Time Machine (In a Sense)

Cassini gave us a portal to see the physical processes that likely shaped the development of our solar system, as well as planetary systems around other stars.

4. The Long Run

The length of Cassini’s mission enabled us to observe weather and seasonal changes over nearly half of a Saturn year, improving our understanding of similar processes at Earth, and potentially those at planets around other stars.

5. Big Science in Small Places

Cassini revealed Saturn’s moons to be unique worlds with their own stories to tell.

6. Ringscape

Cassini showed us the complexity of Saturn’s rings and the dramatic processes operating within them.

7. Pure Exploration

Some of Cassini’s best discoveries were serendipitous. What Cassini found at Saturn prompted scientists to rethink their understanding of the solar system.

8. The Right Tools for the Job

Cassini represented a staggering achievement of human and technical complexity, finding innovative ways to use the spacecraft and its instruments, and paving the way for future missions to explore our solar system.

9. Jewel of the Solar System

Cassini revealed the beauty of Saturn, its rings and moons, inspiring our sense of wonder and enriching our sense of place in the cosmos.

10. Much Still to Teach Us

The data returned by Cassini during its 13 years at Saturn will continue to be studied for decades, and many new discoveries are undoubtedly waiting to be revealed. To keep pace with what’s to come, we’ve created a new home for the mission–and its spectacular images–at https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/cassini.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.  

Space-Grown Crystals May Lead to More Efficient Drug Development

The International Space Station is a perfect environment for creating protein crystal structures for research.

In microgravity, protein molecules form more orderly, high-quality crystals. Studying these structures helps scientists understand their function and contributes to development of more effective treatments for diseases.

Experiments often need more than one try to generate ideal crystals, though. Researchers may have to return samples to Earth for analysis and then try again on a later mission on the space station.

Scientists are testing new methods of growing crystals that allow crew members to observe imperfections, make real-time adjustments, and try growing them again right away. This dramatically reduces the time and cost of conducting experiments aboard the space station and opens up the orbiting lab to more users. More efficient use of time and resources can produce research results in less time and lead to development of better drugs sooner.

Learn more @ISS_Research!

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Before you subject yourself to cold showers because of their supposed health benefits, let’s take a look at the research.

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Climate Change is real. We can’t pick and choose what facts to believe in just because it makes our world-view more comfortable. It doesn’t work like that. If you don’t know the facts… it’s ignorance. If you do know the facts and choose to ignore them…  it’s a delusion.

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You can become immune to mosquito bites… but it might not be worth it.

Elephant birds: Who killed the largest birds that ever lived? 

Prehistoric humans are under suspicion of wiping out the largest birds that ever lived after fossilised bones were discovered with telltale cut marks.

According to scientists, it’s evidence that the elephant birds of Madagascar were hunted and butchered for food.

The remains have been dated to about 10,000 years ago.

Until now, the first settlers were thought to have arrived on the island about 2,500 to 4,000 years ago.

“This does push back the date of human arrival by 6,000 years, at least,” says Dr James Hansford, a scientist at Zoological Society London, UK.

As well as raising questions about human history, the discovery suggests a “radically different extinction theory” is required to understand the loss of the island’s unique fauna…

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Space-based Missile Defense: Not a Good Idea

I will never forget the 1st day of 10th grade in biology class. My teacher started the class by asking us all to draw what we thought a scientist looked like. Then she hung them all up and said “these are all different, but there’s one thing they all have in common” and we all looked at her blankly. She then told us: all of us drew men. Every. Single. One. Even though almost every science teacher we’d ever had was a woman, when we thought “scientist” we thought “men”. She went on to explain how we all have biases and prejudices and women have actually contributed much to science, and that any student in our class - male or female - could be a scientist one day. I didn’t go into stem, but honestly, that day changed my life.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Had school all day and did a little studying with my friend who also wants to be an astrophysicist in this nice café in my town. The coffee was absolutely great!

  • For all of you space nerds, SpaceX is doing a livestream tonight (at 9 PM EST) with all the changes they did to BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) and they will be talking about the first client that signed up for a trip around the moon! 

Have a lovely evening! 🚀🌌

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Science as a whole is a product of western modality, and the whole thing should be scratched off, especially in Africa.…. we have to restart science from an african perspective… through black magic… you are able to send lightning to strike someone.  So can you explain that scientifically? because it is something that happens… western modality is the direct antagonistic factor to decolonization, because western knowledge is totalizing. It is saying it was Newton… who… out of nowhere decided that gravity existed and created an equation, and that is it.. the only way to understand gravity is through [Newtonian physics]… Western modality is the problem that decolonization directly deals with… you still need to go back, internally, decolonize your mind… decolonizing the science would mean doing away with it entirely and starting all over again… thank you

~Things SJWs Actually Said

^Didnt include enough of this quote the first time