Since its launch in 2018, NASA's TESS satellite has made incredible progress in discovering new exoplanets. In the past five years, TESS has discovered 329 new exoplanets in addition to thousands of other candidates. This represents a major step forward in our understanding of the universe and paves the way for even more discoveries to come.
Detection of exoplanets by TESS
TESS uses a sophisticated method of detecting exoplanets called the transit method. This method involves observing the brightness of a given star over time. When a planet in orbit around that star passes between us and the star (a transit), the star's brightness decreases very slightly. If this decrease in brightness is observed at regular intervals, we can determine if there is a planet and how fast it is orbiting the star.
However, to observe these decreases in brightness, one must look at the star in question from several different locations. That's why TESS collects so much data, because it has to look at many stars and see them at many different times to see if they have planets orbiting them.
The impressive data collected by TESS
To detect these worlds, TESS monitors the sky and collects images totaling 192 million pixels each. With an image collected every 30 minutes or less, that's a lot of data. TESS scientists now have more than 251 terabytes for one of the main data products, called full-frame images. That's the equivalent of 167,000 full HD movies.
These exoplanet candidates come from early data suggesting the presence of a planet, but where more data is needed to verify that it does exist. Scientists continue to work hard to analyze all this data and discover new worlds. These discoveries are there to help us understand our place in the universe and learn more about the stars and planets around us.
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