Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Launch
When NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) blasted off into space, Dr Dennis Stello from the School of Physics UNSW, experienced it from the front row.
TESS will be observing all nearby (naked-eye) stars in the sky; finding the planets around the stars in our cosmic backyard. TESS is the follow-up mission to Kepler, one of NASA’s most successful missions, which detected thousands of planets around faint and distant stars.
Stello, who is part of the TESS Asteroseismic Science Consortium, watched the launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida when the Falcon 9 rocket took off on 18 April 2018. “This is a very exciting time for us” says Stello. “TESS will be providing data for many years to come”. The way TESS detects planets is by measuring changes in brightness of stars caused by their planets blocking a tiny fraction of star light each time the planets move in front of their host star”.
Stello further explains: “The measurements by TESS also allows us to detect brightness variations caused by ringing sound inside the stars from star quakes that make the stars vibrate. By analysing the frequencies of the ringing, Stello and his team can infer the properties of the stars, such as their size, mass, and age. “This method, called asteroseismology, helps us understand the new discovered planet systems, and it gives us a way to study detailed physics inside stars under extreme conditions we cannot reproduce here on Earth”.