Today, SpaceX expects to launch a Falcon 9 rocket to deliver NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) into orbit. Scientists expect TESS to find thousands of exoplanets by detecting when they pass in front of their host stars, briefly blocking the light of those suns.
“A few months after TESS launches, we will be able to point out the first ones of these familiar stars, which host planets that could be like ours,” says Cornell University astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger, director of the Carl Sagan Institute.
From Nadia Drake's excellent FAQ on TESS in National Geographic:
The search for life beyond Earth is necessarily constrained by what we know. Life as we don’t know it could be anywhere, and it doesn’t care that we haven’t deigned to imagine it yet. To help focus the hunt, astronomers are starting by looking for something familiar. And we know that at least once, life evolved on a warm, rocky planet orbiting a relatively stable star.
That being said, many of the stars TESS will scrutinize will be smaller and dimmer than our own: the cool, reddish M dwarfs that are the most common types of stars in the Milky Way. Planets orbiting these stars at a distance that’s neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist are going to be snuggled in quite close—orbiting near enough to their stars for scientists to find them on months-long time scales.
In addition, the worlds TESS expects to find will be better situated for observations that could reveal whether alien metabolisms are churning away on their surfaces, beneath their seas, or in their clouds.
The launch is scheduled for 6:32pm EDT. Watch live on NASA TV along with other events throughout the day.
Yale scientists have managed to restore some biological function to the brains of dead pigs killed in a slaughterhouse 4 hours before the experiment.
Well, sort of. Paleontologists have identified a 430 million-year-old fossil of a multi-tentacled sea creature as a new species and dubbed it Sollasina cthulhu after HP Lovecraft’s Great Old One. From Yale University: The new cthulhu, Sollasina, had 45 tentacle-like tube feet, which it used to crawl along the ocean floor and capture food. The […]
Archaeologists uncovered the skeleton of this neolithic dog more than a century ago in a 5,000 year old tomb on on the island of Mainland, Orkney, Scotland. Now, forensic scientists and artists have reconstructed the animal’s face. According to Historic Environment Scotland researcher Steve Farrar, this dog and 23 others found in the “Cuween Hill […]
Believe it or not, PDF files have been the go-to format for contracts and forms of any type since 1993. And sure, they’re easily shareable – but that’s about it. When you need to edit or sign a document – and you will – that’s when frustration can set in. Luckily, there are workarounds, and […]
It’s 4/20! Smoke ’em if you got ’em – and if you haven’t got ’em, check out this roundup of deep discounts on pipes and other accessories. They’re all on sale, but you can take an extra discount off the final price courtesy of the Boing Boing store by using the online code 420SAVE. Freeze […]
Ever wonder if you’re cleaning your teeth well enough? If your last dentist visit has you getting a little more thorough about oral care, it might be time to save yourself some guesswork. A lot of electric toothbrushes promise deep cleaning, but there’s a Platinum Sonic Toothbrush that has power plus the simple but effective […]