Are we alone? NASA's new planet hunter aims to find out

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	Lucas Matney

   	7 hours

The postponement was announced about two hours before the planned blast off from a NASA launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Unlike Kepler's discoveries, the planets found by TESS will orbit stars nearby and bright enough to allow for detailed characterization.

Nasa predicts that TESS will discover 20,000 exoplanets - or planets outside the solar system - including more than 50 Earth-sized planets and up to 500 planets less than twice the size of Earth.

A NASA satellite scheduled to launch on Monday is part of the United States space agency's search for exoplanets, including ones that could support life. Kepler might have stumbled on a fair number of rocky planets during its two missions, but astronomers expect TESS will find more than a thousand - and fill a huge gap on our list.

Unlike Kepler, which peered deep into a narrow stretch of sky to find faraway planets around stars like the sun, TESS's survey will be "wide and shallow", Ricker explained.

"With the hope that someday, in the next decades, we will be able to identify the potential for life to exist outside the solar system".

Further follow-ups on potentially habitable planets could be done using more powerful telescopes, such as NASA's yet-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope, which is created to analyze alien atmospheres and help scientists look for potential signs of life.

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The satellite itself is not much bigger than a refrigerator.

"This is the reason we're all so excited", said Jessie Christiansen, an astronomer at Caltech and NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute who sits on the steering committee for TESS's follow-up working group. The satellite will only hunt potential exoplanet candidates, some of which could be those sitting in the habitable zone or at the right distance from their host star to host necessary conditions to support life.

New telescope will look for planets where alien life. They have been instrumental in bringing the mission from idea to reality and will continue to be involved once the mission launches. If we know their radii and we know their mass, then we can talk about their density and what their likely composition is.

TESS Objects of Interest, an MIT-led effort, will look for objects in TESS' data that could be exoplanets and catalog them. "We're on this scenic tour of the whole sky, and in some ways we have no idea what we will see".

"There need to be things that inspire you, that make you glad to wake up in the morning and be part of humanity", Musk said in March. "Now, go after them". "People are very interested in looking for, what on Earth, are bio-signatures, such as methane, carbon dioxide, water vapour and oxygen". "So it's got to be there somewhere".

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