First Light Results from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

Monday 2 July, 09:55

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will discover thousands of exoplanets in orbit around the brightest stars in the sky. In a two-year survey, TESS will monitor ~200,000 pre-selected bright stars for planetary transits in the solar neighborhood at a 2-minute cadence. The survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. TESS will also provide full frame images (FFI) at a cadence of 30 minutes or less. These FFI will provide precise photometric information for every object within the 2300 square degree instantaneous field of view of the TESS cameras. In total, more than 30 million stars and galaxies brighter than magnitude I=16 will be precisely photometered during the two-year prime mission. In principle, the lunar-resonant TESS orbit will provide opportunities for an extended mission lasting more than a decade, with data rates of ~100 Mbits/s.

An extended survey by TESS of regions surrounding the North and South Ecliptic Poles will provide prime exoplanet targets for characterization with the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as other large ground-based and space-based telescopes of the future. The TESS legacy will be a catalog of the nearest and brightest main-sequence stars hosting transiting exoplanets, which should endure as the most favorable targets for detailed future investigations.

The launch as a NASA Astrophysics Explorer is to take place in March 2018 from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. First light results from the TESS mission will be presented.

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