Tess telescope most important discoveries!

TESS’s Promising Future: Unveiling the Mysteries of the Universe

Video of the day OCTOBER 24th 2019

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What Is The TESS?

Before we look at the discoveries of the telescope, it’s probably best that we look at the telescope itself, right? Because while you might be familiar with various things that NASA uses to observe the stars, including the legendary Hubble Space Telescope, you might not be familiar with Tess.

Here is the full explanation of the satellite telescope straight from NASA:

“The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a NASA-sponsored Astrophysics Explorer-class mission that is performing an all-sky survey to search for planets transiting nearby stars. The primary goal of TESS is to discover planets smaller than Neptune that transit stars bright enough to enable follow-up spectroscopic observations that can provide planet masses and atmospheric compositions.”

When it was launched in April of 2018 the satellite was put in “a highly-elliptical 13.7 day orbit around the Earth”, that way it could look for various exoplanets and other things that were within its mission parameters.

It’s able to record many different kinds of footage, and do it in a range of minutes, if not sooner. One of the big reasons for the creation of this satellite telescope was to be better than the Kepler space telescope that had been in use by NASA for years:

“The TESS Mission is designed to survey over 85% of the sky (an area of sky 400 times larger than covered by Kepler) to search for planets around nearby stars (within ~200 parsec). TESS stars will typically be 30-100 times brighter than those surveyed by the Kepler satellite.”

He’s not the only one who sees the potential for TESS in the long term and as an evolution to Kepler:

“Kepler discovered the amazing result that, on average, every star system has a planet or planets around it,” said Padi Boyd, TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “TESS takes the next step. If planets are everywhere, let’s find those orbiting bright, nearby stars because they’ll be the ones we can now follow up with existing ground and space-based telescopes, and the next generation of instruments for decades to come.”

So as you can see, this is one tool that NASA really wants to work for the long term and help them understand more about the universe at large. And as you’re about to see, it’s already found some very interesting things.

A Trio Of Planets In A New System

In July 2019, TESS found a trio of planets that were exactly what it was looking for, it was found  73 light-years away in the southern constellation Pictor. The only reason that TESS even found them was because of the various bursts of light that were being emitted by them during the passing of their dwarf star that they orbited.

Because of the newness of this discovery, the section of space that they were found in doesn’t even have a name yet. Which goes to prove that humanity even in the year 2019 has many things to learn about the universe as a whole.

To that end, this system is known as TOI 270. Which stands for “TESS Object of Interest”. 

“This system is exactly what TESS was designed to find — small, temperate planets that pass, or transit, in front of an inactive host star, one lacking excessive stellar activity, such as flares,” said lead researcher Maximilian Günther, a Torres Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge. “This star is quiet and very close to us, and therefore much brighter than the host stars of comparable systems. With extended follow-up observations, we’ll soon be able to determine the make-up of these worlds, establish if atmospheres are present and what gases they contain, and more.”

In terms of the star itself, while it doesn’t have flares, it also doesn’t have the mass we’d likely need in order to inhabit the system should that option be made available. Meaning that it’s 40% smaller than our sun, both in terms of its actual size and the mass that it has within itself. 

You might be thinking, “Why does that matter?” Simple, when it comes to suns, size and mass matter, because they help enforce the heat that they emit. Our sun is perfectly sized to give us the heat we need to survive without burning us up. Because of the size and mass of this dwarf-star in TOI 270, it’s 1/3 cooler than our own sun. Which means heat isn’t transmitted as easily unless you’re really close to it.

Which brings us to the three planets that circle the place. While not much is known about them yet, we do know their temperatures and their relative composition. Including being rocky in one case, and the other two more than likely being gas planets.

The problem with all of them though is that they’re so close to the sun that they bask in the heat that it brings. To the extent that the farthest away planet is still very hot in being 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Which is WAY hotter than any spot of land on Earth that isn’t next to a thermal vent of some kind.

But what has many scientists so intrigued is their sizes. All three planets are bigger than Earth and that is rather mysterious:

“An interesting aspect of this system is that its planets straddle a well-established gap in known planetary sizes,” said co-author Fran Pozuelos, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Liège in Belgium. “It is uncommon for planets to have sizes between 1.5 and two times that of Earth for reasons likely related to the way planets form, but this is still a highly controversial topic. TOI 270 is an excellent laboratory for studying the margins of this gap and will help us better understand how planetary systems form and evolve.”

Regardless of that mystery, this proves just how important TESS is as a whole, because it found this system and added more wonder and mystery to the universe.

Black Hole Eating A Star

In the universe as a whole, there are few things more terrifying and yet oddly wondrous than that of a black hole. These entities are born cosmic events such as stars collapsing upon themselves, and they are incredibly powerful because of the massive gravity they emit. They’re so strong that they’re able to take just about anything that gets into their gravity wells. Including planets, and even stars.

We talked about in this post

However, because of technology and timing, we’ve never been able to witness a black hole actually devouring a star in any capacity. That is, until TESS came along and witnessed such an event in September 2019.

To be clear, this black hole is nowhere near Earth, in fact it’s 375 million lightyears away in a galaxy that isn’t the Milky Way. But it’s said to be rather close to it. Anyway, according to pictures taken by TESS, a star had gotten too close to the black hole, and this caused a tidal disruption, where the sun was slowly strung out and absorbed into the black hole itself. This kind of event happens only once every 10,000-100,000 years. So for TESS to find this and capture proof of this is literally a first for humankind.

“For TESS to observe (the event) so early in its tenure, and in the continuous viewing zone where we could watch it for so long, is really quite extraordinary,” said Padi Boyd, TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Future collaborations with observatories around the world and in orbit will help us learn even more about the different outbursts that light up the cosmos.”

In case you’re curious, the black hole is supermassive. So much so that it’s believed to weigh 6 billion times what our sun is. Think about that, 6 billion. And its powerful was able to turn an entire star into a stream of gas before being sucked into the black hole in full. The results actually made the Black Hole look like a haloed object, which is partially what TESS saw.

Black Holesource: Nasa

Earth-Sized Planet

For those that study the universe, one of the biggest goals is to find planets that are very much like Earth, especially in the size department. Because if we can find a planet that is the “right size” and has similar features to Earth, it’s a possible candidate for colonization should the time arrive.

For TESS, while it’s technically looking for a specific type of planet, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t find things close to what many are looking for. Including HD 21749c. Which was the first Earth-like planet that it discovered upon being launch. In terms of size, the planet is about 89% the size of Earth. Which means it’s only 10% smaller, which if you think about the Earth itself and its layout of land to ocean, that’s not too big a difference.

What’s more, it orbits a K-type star that is 70% the size of our own sun. Which may sound like quite a bit smaller, but depending on distance to planet and heat output may not be as bad as you think. Except in this case, it is, as the planet honestly does circle its star at a very close orbit.

So close is it in fact that the orbit of the planet takes a mere 8 days, which should give you a clue as to how close it is. Plus, given its range to the star, that means that the surface of the planet is REALLY hot. While not fully measured, scientists believe that it’s somewhere around 600 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface.

So while not a perfect match for what humanity needs, it’s still something noteworthy, as we’re still finding planets amongst the stars with TESS.

Comets

It may seem basic compared to planets and black holes, but NASA also has a keen interest in comets and other such space objects.

Ironically enough, the images of a certain comet were captured by TESS before she was even used for her intended purpose of finding planets. This was during the phase of life when she was just in the atmosphere of Earth, and when she was up there she got incredibly clear pictures of the comet known as C/2018 N1. A comet that was actually within our own solar system and detected by other NASA equipment.

Before being pointed away at other things, TESS also got pictures of comets outside the solar system.

Planet LHS 3844b

To be fair, we can’t give full credit for this find to TESS, it was a combined effort between it and the Spitzer Space Telescope, but the result is the same. TESS was the first to find the planet known as LHS 3844b, and it revealed via study that it was 1.3 times the size of Earth, as well as next to an M-type star at such a range that it would orbit the star in just 11 hours. 

This prompted scientists at NASA to look closer via the Spitzer Space Telescope, and when they did, they were able to get a really clear picture of the planet. Something they don’t often get to do. Upon observation, they noted a very rocky surface, and were able to deduce that it was a tidally locked planet, meaning on one side it always faces the sun, and the other side always faces away from it.

Through this they were able to learn more about the atmosphere of the planet and what it might mean:

“We’ve got lots of theories about how planetary atmospheres fare around M dwarfs, but we haven’t been able to study them empirically,” Laura Kreidberg, a researcher at the Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and lead author of the new study said. “Now, with LHS 3844b, we have a terrestrial planet outside our solar system where for the first time we can determine observationally that an atmosphere is not present.”

Supernova

One of the important mission parameters of TESS isn’t just to look for planets, but to look at a part of space for about a month and occasionally capture what’s going on in that part of space. This is different from other telescopes and satellites as they look for one thing and move on, while TESS is meant to capture data on a grand scale.

Because of this, it can witness natural events occurring as they happen. Including the birth of Supernova. 

In fact, just within its first few MONTHS of life, TESS found multiple supernovas being born across MULTIPLE galaxies! And it wasn’t until much later that ground-based telescopes were able to notice them. Further proving what TESS can do for NASA and universal exploration.

The best part though is that these particular supernovas fall under the classification of Type Ia Supernovas, which scientists wish to study more because they want to know what’s the more common way of their birth.

The Future Of TESS

One of the best parts about TESS as a system as a whole is that it’s barely been in service over a year, and yet, it’s already made wonderful discoveries that are making all sorts of scientists happy. It’s found planets, stars, black holes, other phenomena, and it’s still going! This is the kind of progress that people can get behind:

“The pace and productivity of TESS in its first year of operations has far exceeded our most optimistic hopes for the mission,” said George Ricker, TESS’s principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “In addition to finding a diverse set of exoplanets, TESS has discovered a treasure trove of astrophysical phenomena, including thousands of violently variable stellar objects.”

So imagine what TESS will be able to find in its second year, or its third, or its fifth! Not to mention, NASA and other space agencies are always looking to improve themselves and their technology, they may realize something with TESS that could lead to them being even more advanced with their next find.

The universe is open to viewing, and who knows what TESS might find next.

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