NASA prepping 2017 exoplanet mission to seek out new, Earth-sized planets

We might not have warp technology figured out just yet, but that doesn’t mean NASA isn’t keeping an eye out for planets to explore once we can actually make it out to the stars.

The space agency is prepping a new project dubbed the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), set to launch in 2017. The two-year mission will focus on tracking small, bright stellar objects and is expected to identify more than 3,000 new planets outside of our solar system.

By the time the two-year initiative wraps up, researchers say TESS should be able to find more than 200 Earths and super-Earths (planets at least twice the size of Earth). Approximately 10-20 of those planets are expected to be “habitable-zone planets.” The project’s principal investigator George Ricker told Space that bright host stars are the “best ones for follow-up studies of their exoplanets to pin down planet masses, and to characterize planet atmospheres.”

The TESS satellite is putting a twist on the approach taken by NASA’s Kepler mission. Where Kepler focused on one specific area and studied all the planets within that zone, TESS will examine the entire sky and capture the brightest stars — which are the ones most likely to host terrestrial planets.

It’ll be interesting to see what TESS finds with the wide-net approach. Here’s hoping we find Earth 2.0 out there — and develop warp tech between now and then, of course.

(Via Space)

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