Scientists Believe TESS will discover ten worlds like Earth in two years

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite could help us find a real Earth 2.0.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a state-of-the-art space telescope from  NASA’s Explorers program, designed specifically to search for exoplanets using the transit method in an area 400 times larger than that covered by the Kepler mission.

Launched on April 18, 2018, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, during its 2-year primary mission the new Space Telescope is expected to find more than 20,000 exoplanets.

NASA’s TESS Shares First Science Image in Hunt to Find New Worlds. Image Credit: NASA/MIT/TESS
NASA’s TESS Shares First Science Image in Hunt to Find New Worlds. Image Credit: NASA/MIT/TESS

So far, we are only aware of the existence of 3,800 exoplanets, as of the date it launched.

In fact, astronomers predict that NASA’s new TESS exoplanet hunter will be able to find at least 10 Earth-like planets that orbit their stars in the habitable zone.

This is according to a study titled “A Revised Exoplanet Yield from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)” authored by Thomas Barclay of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Joshua Pepper of the University of Maryland and Elisa Quintana of Lehigh University.

The study has been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

The three researchers used what we know about the stellar population and what we know about the exoplanet populations, combined with the modes of observation of TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), to develop their estimates.

“In the TESS 2-minute cadence mode we estimate that TESS will find 1250 ± 70 exoplanets (90% confidence), including 250 smaller than 2 R,” wrote experts in their study.

“Furthermore, we predict that an additional 3100 planets will be found in full-frame image data orbiting bright dwarf stars and more than 10,000 around fainter stars. We predict that TESS will find 500 planets orbiting M dwarfs, but the majority of planets will orbit stars larger than the Sun,” they explained.

There are three factors in their simulation.

First, a simulation of the stellar population that TESS will observe; secondly,  a representative sample of planets orbiting those stars; and finally a prediction of how many of those planets TESS will be able to detect.

Barclay, Pepper, and Quintana performed their simulation as many as 300 times to obtain the expected performance.

There are many details in their results related to the type of star orbiting the planets, the different mode of observation used to detect which planets and how everything relates to follow-up observations.

The Astrophysical Journal
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