Posts Tagged ‘telescope’

1 billion down, 155 billion to go

May 25, 2020

Launched in 2013, ESA’s Gaia satellite has been scanning the sky to measure the positions, distances and motions of more than one billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. The goal of the mission is to create the most detailed galactic map ever made, in order to investigate the Milky Way’s past and future history like never before.



Detecting New Planets

May 2, 2020

News article posted on by Rebekah Hounsell, Knicole Colon

Time flies — it has already been two years since TESS launched into space! Since launching on April 18, 2018, TESS has mapped out a significant fraction of the night sky, confirmed the existence of 45 exoplanets, found more than 1700 planet candidates, and been used to examine the variability of countless sources such as active galactic nuclei and supernovae.

Before science operations even began in July 2018, TESS managed to capture a set of images showing the motion of the comet C/2018N1, illustrating TESS’s unique ability to collect a set of stable periodic images covering a wide region of the sky.

Within the first few months of operation, TESS demonstrated its planet hunting abilities by detecting its first three exoplanets: a planet named Pi Mensae c, which is twice the size of the Earth and orbits its Sun like star every six days; LHS 3844 b, a rocky planet located in the constellation Indus, at a distance of only 49 light years; a dense non-rocky planet named HD 21749 b, which is three times the size of the Earth and 23 times more massive, making the planet more dense than Neptune.

TESS discovered its first Earth-size planet in the habitable zone, which was announced in early 2020. The planet named TOI 700 d orbits a cool M dwarf star approximately 40% the mass and size of the Sun and is just over 100 light years away in the southern constellation of Draco. To date TOI 700 d is one of only a few planets discovered within a system’s habitable zone.

TESS also detected its first circumbinary planetary system in 2019. The planet, TOI 1338 b, is a world that orbits two stars in the constellation of Pictor, at a distance of 1300 light years. The two stars orbit each other every 15 days – one is 10% more massive than the Sun whilst the other is cooler and dimmer at 1/3 the size of the Sun. TOI 1338 b is believed to be the only planet in the system and is almost 7 times larger than the Earth.

Apart from hunting for planets, TESS, with its almost all-sky survey capability and high-cadenced observations, is a great tool to study the variable universe. TESS watched a star being torn apart by a black hole in a phenomenon known as a tidal disruption event (TDE). This event was named ASASSN-19bt as it was first identified by the ground-based All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae. The data provided by TESS allowed the astronomical community to view the light from the event much closer to the black hole than ever before!

TESS has also been used to create detailed high-cadenced light curves of supernovae (SNe). Recent work presented 18 early time light curves of Type Ia SNe occurring in the first six sectors of TESS data. SN Ia are one of our most mature cosmological probes, however we still do not have a firm understanding of the progenitor systems. The detailed early time observations of these transient events by TESS are extremely important and can provide vital information in understanding these systems.

The science highlighted here represents only a small amount of the incredible science to have come out of the TESS prime mission to date, thanks to efforts of both the TESS mission team and the TESS community. So what is next for TESS? The two-year prime mission will end in July 2020, and given the success of TESS, the mission has now been extended for a further two years through October 2022. TESS will remain as NASA’s key planet hunter, but it will also continue to provide the high-quality wide-field survey data required for the exploration of many different kinds of variable and transient events in the night sky — part of which is shown below in the mosaic of the southern sky as seen by TESS.


Swiss nerds to launch exoplanet measuring CHEOPS space telescope next year

November 14, 2018

UPDATE 12.18.19: Watch the launch here:

Swiss nerds are awesome.  They were the ones to discover the first exoplanet in 1995.  In 2019, CHEOPS will be launched in order to measure the radii of exoplanets.  When radius and mass are known, the density of the planet can be calculated.  Here’s a boring video about the making of CHEOPS.  2019 will also reveal the early results of TESS to the public.

More Eyes in the Skies

October 15, 2018

Sizes of telescope mirrors around the world.

telescope mirror sizes

Number of exoplanets discovered by year.

exo_planets by year

UPDATE: Kepler K2 3.5 years and counting

February 10, 2018

UPDATE 8.08.18:

Based on data from NASA’s K2 mission, an international team of scientists has confirmed 44 new exoplanets. This brings the total number of new exoplanets found with the K2 mission up to 347.

“We started out analyzing 275 candidates, of which 149 were validated as real exoplanets. In turn, 95 of these planets have proved to be new discoveries,” said U.S. doctoral student Andrew Mayo at the National Space Institute (DTU Space) at the Technical University of Denmark. “This research has been underway since the first K2 data release in 2014.”
Read more at: TESS exoplanet satellite should be launched in late March.  But Kepler is still providing data and finding exoplanets!


Shot of ESPRESSO seeking life

December 7, 2017

5-firstlightfoThe Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) has successfully made its first observations. Installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, ESPRESSO will search for exoplanets with unprecedented precision by looking at the minuscule changes in the light of their host stars. For the first time ever, an instrument will be able to sum up the light from all four VLT telescopes and achieve the light collecting power of a 16-meter telescope.

ESPRESSO has achieved first light on ESO’s Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. This new, third-generation echelle spectrograph is the successor to ESO’s hugely successful HARPS at the La Silla Observatory. HARPS can attain a precision of around one metre per second in velocity measurements, whereas ESPRESSO aims to achieve a precision of just a few centimetres per second, due to advances in technology and its placement on a much bigger telescope.

The lead scientist for ESPRESSO, Francesco Pepe from the University of Geneva in Switzerland, explains its significance: “This success is the result of the work of many people over 10 years. ESPRESSO isn’t just the evolution of our previous instruments like HARPS, but it will be transformational, with its higher resolution and higher precision. And unlike earlier instruments it can exploit the VLT’s full collecting power—it can be used with all four of the VLT Unit Telescopes at the same time to simulate a 16-metre . ESPRESSO will be unsurpassed for at least a decade—now I am just impatient to find our first rocky planet!”

Read more at:

Hubble turns 26 years old

April 22, 2016

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TESS to replace Kepler in 2 years

December 21, 2015

Closest Earth Match yet out of 4000 sighted exoplanets

July 24, 2015

A reminder, this is just one out of billions here in our local galaxy.

There are millions of these Earth like matches in the Milky Way.

Details about that:









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