The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite doesn't really have googly eyes, but the @NASA_TESS@twitter.com instrument does have four 16.8 megapixel CCD cameras which each have seven stacked lenses in them. Lovely four-eyes for finding planets. https://tess.gsfc.nasa.gov/instrument.html
TESS is an observatory made up of an instrument (the four cameras and related technology) on a spacecraft. In this case the instrument is on an @OrbitalATK@twitter.com LEOStar-2 series built for the mission. https://www.orbitalatk.com/news-room/insideOA/OrbitalATK-TESS/default.aspx?prid=283
A great image for thinking about parts involved in a spacecraft observatory like #TESS. The Falcon 9 carries it up, the Orbital LEOStar-2 is the ship, the science instrument collects the data. There's also ground-based infrastructure, like the Deep Space Network radio antennas.
The Deep Space Network (DSN) "consists of three facilities spaced equidistant from each other – approximately 120 degrees apart in longitude – around the world... Goldstone, near Barstow, California; near Madrid, Spain; and near Canberra, Australia." https://twitter.com/dsn_status/status/985956920405254150
Photos of @CanberraDSN@twitter.com's Deep Space Station 36, completed and during construction (2012-2016).
#TESS is a cooperative like all space science. Lead institution is @TESSatMIT@twitter.com. @MITLL@twitter.com does cameras. @NASAGoddard@twitter.com project management, sys engineering, mission assurance. @OrbitalATK@twitter.com builds/operates spacecraft. Others include @MIT_Physics@twitter.com, @NASAAmes@twitter.com, @firstname.lastname@example.org, @email@example.com, @MAST_News@twitter.com.
What in the world is a "Transiting Exoplanet"? Imagine you're on Mars and the Earth passes in front of the sun - that's a transiting planet. A transiting exoplanet is the same thing but with another star instead of our Sun. (JPL Solar System Simulator)
This is what Venus looked like as it crossed in front of the Sun in 2012, that's also a transit. https://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/venus-express/venus-transit
When we look at other stars, and see the light dip in the right way, we can identify that as a planet crossing in front of the star. We can't see it like we can with Venus, but the drop in brightness still tells scientists a lot about what's happening. (NASA/Kepler Mission)
These are visuals from computer models of 1,235 planet candidates discovered in the first few years of the @NASAKepler@twitter.com mission. The solitary one in the top right is the Sun with Earth transiting for size comparison. (Image: Jason Rowe)
There are other ways to get an image of an exoplanet, this was the very first exoplanet to be directly imaged, discovered in 2004. 2M1207b is the red spot on the lower left orbiting the brown dwarf 2M1207. (infrared composite image, ESO)
So what types of images will TESS take to search for exoplanets? Every two seconds TESS will take images for guidance, but every two minutes TESS will download little "stamps" around stars that might have the kind of planets scientists are looking for. https://tess.mit.edu/science/observations/
The 2-second images are stacked groups of 60 to make 2 minute images (and others) then returned to Earth every 13.7 days. These are like little videos, and scientists will be able to search for dips in light that would suggest a planet crossing in front of the star. (NASA Ames)
"We’re trying to find planets that are Earth analogs, meaning they'll be Earth-like in their characteristics, such as size, mass, and so on. That means we want to find planets with atmospheres, with gravity similar to Earth's." http://www.kavlifoundation.org/science-spotlights/to-seek-out-new-life-how-tess-mission-will-accelerate-hunt-livable-alien-worlds#.WtfPG8gvw2x
Scientists can learn a surprising amount from a bit of transit data. The dip in brightness and size of the star gives them the size or radius of the planet. Time between transits gives them orbital period of the planet, and from that the average distance of planet from its star.
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