NASA’s TESS mission shares massive circular mosaic of the southern sky

Brittany A. Roston - Nov 5, 2019, 6:36 pm CST
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NASA’s TESS mission shares massive circular mosaic of the southern sky

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has produced a giant new image of the southern sky, something constructed from more than 200 images captured during the mission’s first year. According to the space agency, the panorama includes 29 of the exoplanets that were discovered by TESS, as well as more than 1,000 candidate planets that may join those 29.

TESS is often referred to as a planet-hunter — it is designed to look for exoplanets by conducting sky surveys using four cameras with a total of 16 CCDs. Every 30 minutes, these cameras snap an image of an entire sector of the sky, according to NASA, which says the CCDs collectively captured more than 15,000 images over 30-minute durations.

That massive number amounts to more than 20TB of data on the southern sky where TESS spent its first year making observations. All 20TB have been sent back to researchers on Earth; NASA says it’s the equivalent of having streamed around 6,000 HD movies.

We’ve seen a number of images from TESS over past months, but the latest is most stunning. NASA combined 208 images to form a huge circular panorama showing the southern sky, underscoring just much surveying it accomplished during its initial year. The sky was split into 13 different sectors individually imaged over the course of almost a month.

Featured in the panorama is part of the Milky Way, the Orion Nebula, the Large Magellanic Cloud, and a newborn star ‘nursery.’ That’s just a sample of everything TESS has captured, however — the mission has also snapped a comet, a star being shredded by a black hole, multiple supernovae, and more. The conclusion of its southern sky survey has kicked off the start of its 1-year northern sky survey.


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