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Scouting for Exoplanets with TESS, Lecture on October 8

Artist's conception of TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite). Image from NASA GSFC TESS website http://tess.gsfc.nasa.gov/overview.html.

Artist’s conception of TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite). Image from NASA GSFC TESS website http://tess.gsfc.nasa.gov/overview.html.

The first exoplanets, or extrasolar planets, were definitively discovered in the 1990s, although the idea of other worlds like ours goes back to the ancient Greeks, and their existence had been theorized by Giordano Bruno in the 16th century and Isaac Newton in the 18th. The first direct images of exoplanets were produced in 2008. Now, nearly two thousand have been found, as well as many more that are candidates. Over a thousand of these are credited to NASA’s Kepler Telescope onboard the spacecraft launched in 2009 and modified to the K2 mission in 2014. The Kepler’s photometer monitored the brightness of stars and transmitted its data to Earth, where analysis could detect periodic dimming caused by extrasolar planets crossing in front of their host stars (the transiting method). Many exoplanets are around relatively faint stars, so the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) mission, set to launch in 2017, will be searching for exoplanets that pass in front of bright stars, making them easier to study. The TESS spacecraft will have four cameras, each with its own telescope. The exoplanets discovered by TESS will be studied by the ground-based telescopes and later by the James Webb Space Telescope.

Searching for Habitable Worlds. Artistic Concept. Credit: NASA Ames/W. Stenzel

Searching for Habitable Worlds. Artistic Concept. Credit: NASA Ames/W. Stenzel

The Science, Technology & Business Division is excited to have the Project Scientist for the TESS mission, Stephen Rinehart, as the next speaker in our NASA/Goddard lecture series. Dr. Rinehart is an astrophysicist and the Associate Chief for the Laboratory for Observational Cosmology at Goddard. His talk will be Thursday, October 8, 2015, from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the Library’s James Madison Memorial Building.

If you cannot make it to the program, it will be recorded for broadcast on the Library of Congress science webcast page and on its You Tube channel “Topics in Science” playlist in the coming months.

In 2013, the Library hosted the program “Exotic Earths: Exploring Planets Around other Stars” with NASA Goddard research scientist and astrobiologist Dr. Avi Mandell. You can view a recording of this program on the Library’s webcast page and YouTube Channel.

If you want to learn more about exoplanets check out JPL’s PlanetQuest website.

This post was authored by science reference librarian Stephanie Marcus, who coordinates the NASA Goddard lectures series at the Library.

One Comment

  1. autry sams jr
    October 5, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Can radio waves bounce back off solid objects in outer space to give us computerized pictoral images of certain objects, different suns have different effects, are there any solid based planets in the same solar systems with 3 or more suns in the area together red yellow white?, what’s with the green colors out there, time and space forever expanding, are atoms, life in outer space,

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