NASA TESS spacecraft begins major exoplanet hunting mission

NASA has announced the start of its TESS planet hunter mission, one that officially began on July 25 with the goal of cataloging new planets outside our solar system. The space agency plans for this mission to last two years, during which time it will likely find thousands of new planets. If NASA gets lucky, it may find some that could possibly support life.

TESS stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite; the spacecraft is designed to search the sky, identifying exoplanets and sending the data back to researchers. NASA says the first batch of information will be transmitted back to its researchers next month, after which point a team will start analyzing it.

According to NASA, TESS will focus on nearby, bright planets that experience occasional drops in brightness, which researchers call transits. The change in light may indicate the presence of a planet that is passing in front of a star, making these areas prime spots to search.

The mission is being led by MIT, though the Goddard Space Flight Center is managing it. According to NASA, more than a dozen observatories, universities, and institutes are participating in the mission, as well. The space agency details how the mission will progress in the video above, including a visual of how TESS will survey the sky.

Talking about the mission is NASA's Paul Hertz:

I'm thrilled that our new planet hunter mission is ready to start scouring our solar system's neighborhood for new worlds. Now that we know there are more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the strange, fantastic worlds we're bound to discover.