Photo: NASA

TESS launched to find new planets in the Milky Way

Monday 23 Apr 18


John Leif Jørgensen
Professor and Head of Measurement and Instrumentation
DTU Space
+45 45 25 34 48


Lars A. Buchhave
DTU Space
+45 45 25 96 64

Exoplanet research at DTU Space

Over the past couple of decades, we have gone from assuming that exoplanets existed to knowing that they actually do. One reason for this knowledge is the Kepler mission.

More than 3,700 have been identified, and the assumption is that there are probably more exoplanets than stars in our galaxy—the Milky Way.

DTU Space established a exoplanet research group in 2017 to work with this fascinating area. The group is headed by Professor Lars A. Buchhave.
NASA’s TESS mission, in which DTU participates, was launched safely into space on Thursday to explore exoplanets in the Milky Way.

With help from DTU Space, TESS is to locate planets that revolve around the brightest stars and determine their atmospheric composition and size. In the long term, TESS forms part of the exploration of ‘Earth-like’ planets and—ultimately—of the attempt to discover possible signs of conditions for life in the universe.

“It’s a ground-breaking mission we're participating in here. And our participation in TESS, which is a NASA mission, shows—together with ASIM—which was launched recently and belongs under the European Space Agency ESA, that we at DTU Space is global partner in demand among the top institutions in the field of space research,” says Director of DTU Space, Kristian Pedersen.

The expectation is that TESS will discover thousands of new planets—of about the same size as the Earth—that revolve around stars near our part of the Milky Way.

US project to the tune of a billion
TESS is a project that amounts to just over DKK 1 billion under the US space agency NASA.

DTU has delivered the equipment in the form of two star trackers, which TESS uses for accurate navigation. DTU Space also participates in the work to search for the new planets and characterize them.

But there is still some way to go before the TESS satellite is in place. In the coming weeks, it will orbit around the Earth a couple of times as well as once around the Moon before it reaches its final orbit trajectory around the Earth, where it will have an orbital period of 13.7 days. TESS is expected to be able to begin its groundbreaking work in approximately a couple of months.

After a minor delay, TESS was launched on Thursday, 19 April, at 00.31 Danish time from Cape Canaveral at Kennedy Space Center in Florida with a Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX.

Read more about the TESS mission here and at NASA.

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