The most famous space telescope is undoubtedly the Hubble Telescope, launched in April 1999, which will soon be followed by the James Webb Telescope, which has not yet been launched. TESS is a little less well known, but no less interesting: a planet hunter. This telescope scans the sky for exoplanets, preferably planets that have roughly the same properties as our Earth, so that life can be present.
TESS is the successor to the Kepler telescope, which gave Maarten the tip after 9 years of loyal service and around 4,500 exoplanets discovered. Most newly discovered exoplanets are now discovered thanks to TESS. The planets discovered by TESS have the letters T, O and I in their names, which stands for TESS Object of Interest.
TESS has now swept around 85% of the celestial sphere. What has this brought us so far? Right now, there are 3,363 TOIs, which don’t have to be exoplanets yet. For example, it can also be measurement errors. So far, 129 confirmed exoplanets have been discovered using TESS.
Among the TESS objects of interest, 760 have a radius up to four times that of the Earth. This makes them very interesting in our search for life beyond Earth. In 2019, TESS made headlines because this telescope showed how a star was torn to shreds by a black hole. Because TESS had been photographing this part of the universe for quite some time, astronomers were able to go back in time and see exactly how this process worked.
In the meantime, TESS has yet to collect its latest data, so we’ll likely receive a lot more exoplanets and other findings from this telescope.
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