Published On: Tue, Apr 17th, 2018

Space X launch: What new planets will NASA-led mission find? | Science | News

The Falcon 9 rocket launch will be streamed live from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Wednesday, April 18 following the delay of the launch tonight.

Aboard the payload will be NASA’s TESS telescopic spacecraft – TESS is an acronym for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.

TESS’s assignment is to to look for around 200,000 stars to find signs of exoplanets – worlds which orbit other stars.

Our solar system operates in the same way with Earth and other planets such as Mars and Jupiter constantly orbiting the Sun.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is leading the mission, said the stars will be monitored for “temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits”.

What new planets will NASA-led mission find?

Scientists from NASA are hoping to find out what other kind of planets are out there and whether they any have similar properties to ours.

The hope is to discover whether other forms of life might exist elsewhere in space.

NASA’s Dr Martin Still said: “We expect to find a whole range of planet sizes between planets the size of Mercury or even the moon, our moon, to planets the same size as Jupiter and everything in between.

“The most interesting thing about these TESS discoveries is gonna be how close they are and the fact that their host stars are gonna be bright relative to those Kepler stars.”

He added it would mean that future telescopes would then be able to map these stars and planets to better characterise their properties in the future.

The space expert said the mission would be looking for key “biomarkers” to establish whether there was similar life to that on Earth.

He said: “So if for instance, we were looking for life similar to what we find on our planet, then we’d be looking for an atmosphere which had very similar conditions; same temperature, same density, same pressure and same chemical constituents.

So, we’re looking for the chemical markers of oxygen, of ozone, carbon dioxide, methane, all of those things which fill our own atmosphere.

“And some of these things, of course, are markers of our own presence on Earth.

“Much of the methane in our atmosphere is the product of biology.

“And if we find the right cocktail of these chemicals in exoplanet atmospheres, it’s not obviously cast iron proof of life, but it does provide evidence that there may be some form of biology on those planets.”

What time is the launch?

SpaceX confirmed within the last hour that the launch had been delayed until Wednesday for further testing.

In a tweet, it said: “Standing down today to conduct additional GNC analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of @NASA_TESS on Wednesday, April 18.”

The mission is now expected to launch at 6.32pm EDT (11.32pm BST) on April 18.

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