TESS, or the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Spacecraft, is NASA’s planet-hunting satellite that has detected 5,000 possible exoplanets.
The hardworking telescope, which was launched in 2018, has been employed by researchers from a range of universities to uncover tell-tale signs of planets beyond our solar system.
Because it takes numerous observations to determine if a particular signal is an exoplanet, many of the objects identified by TESS are referred to as possible exoplanets or TESS Objects of Interest (TOIs).
Currently, 176 of the approximately 5,000 identified candidates have been verified as exoplanets.
Celebrating Astronomical Success
The most recent set of planetary candidates, which pushed TESS above 5,000, was discovered as part of the Faint Star Search, directed by MIT’s Michelle Kunimoto.
Michelle Kunimoto is a TESS postdoctoral associate at MKI who received a PhD in Astronomy from the University of British Columbia in 2020. She added:
“By this time last year, TESS had discovered slightly more than 2,400 TOIs. Today, TESS has more than doubled that figure, which is a significant credit to the mission and all the teams analyzing the data for new worlds.
I’m looking forward to seeing hundreds more in the coming years!”
TESS has assisted in the discovery of a stunning diversity of exoplanets, ranging from possibly livable worlds, planets close to our solar system, and a small, hellish planet where a year lasts eight hours.
TESS’s initial mission lasted from 2018 to 2020, but it was so successful that it was extended from 2020 to 2022, allowing it to locate even more exciting worlds.
TOI manager Katharine Hesse said that the team of scientists discovered hundreds of new candidates during the primary mission using data from the first year of the extended mission. She said she is looking forward to seeing how many multi-planet systems we can locate throughout the course of the extended mission and in the following years with TESS.