TESS dancing with the moon

Tess transiting exoplanet survey satelite spacecraft probe nasa 4-wide cameras moon gravity assist maneuver flyby

TESS Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satelite dancing with the moon. The launch placed TESS into a preliminary oval-shaped transfer orbit. The satellite will carefully maneuver into its operational perch over the next two months.

The first of three planned “perigee burns” Wednesday will do most of the lifting to place TESS on a trajectory to encounter the moon May 17, passing by at a distance of roughly 8,000 kilometers and using lunar gravity to drastically reshape its orbit around Earth.

The washing machine-sized spacecraft is built to search outside the solar system, scanning the nearest, brightest stars for signs of periodic dimming. These so-called “transits” may mean that planets are in orbit around them.

During TESS’s two-year, $337 million mission, the MIT-built cameras will survey more than 85 percent of the sky, looking at approximately 200,000 pre-selected bright, nearby stars, including the 6,000 or so stars that are visible to the naked eye in the night sky.

Tess discoveries will be studied further by ground- and space-based telescopes for signs of habitability, including a rocky terrain, a size similar to Earth and a distance from their sun – neither too close nor too far – that allows the right temperature for liquid water.

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