NASA's planet hunter telescope, TESS, has shared the first image that it captured on its initial round of data collection. The data from the telescope’s initial science orbit includes a detailed picture of the southern sky taken with all four of the spacecraft's wide-field cameras, NASA said in a statement on Monday. The images include parts of a dozen constellations, from Capricornus to Pictor, and both the large and small magellanic clouds, the galaxies nearest to our own. This image captures a wealth of stars and other objects, including systems previously known to have exoplanets.
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"This swath of the sky's southern hemisphere includes more than a dozen stars we know have transiting planets based on previous studies from ground observatories," said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge.
The images were captured using all four of the spacecraft's wide-field cameras during a 30-minute period on August 7.
"In a sea of stars brimming with new worlds, TESS is casting a wide net and will haul in a bounty of promising planets for further study," said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
"This first light science image shows the capabilities of TESS' cameras, and shows that the mission will realise its incredible potential in our search for another Earth," he said.
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The target stars of TESS are 30 to 300 light-years away and about 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler's targets, which are 300 to 3,000 light-years away.