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2018: Serious exoplanet search begins

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TESS launch on Falcon 9 rocket
TESS telescope launch, April 18/NASA

From Lisa Grossman at Science News:

TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is headed to an orbit between the Earth and the moon, a journey that will take about two months. In its first two years, the telescope will seek planets orbiting 200,000 nearby, bright stars, and identify the best planets for further study. TESS’ cameras will survey 85 percent of the sky by splitting it up into 26 zones and focusing on each zone for 27 days apiece. More.

Here’s her story on a previous, scrubbed launch.

It is nice to see exoplanet research situated more clearly in the realm of science. The “millions of habitable planets” claims we so often hear are mere assertions in search of funding. They amount to “there’s gold in them thar hills.” That is, not incorrect so much as not evaluable.

See also: Tech advance may make Earth-sized exoplanet analysis easier

Researchers: Chances of life on exoplanets less than supposed, due to stellar winds

Rob Sheldon re a typical exoplanet PR: NASA’s big announcement about exoplanets “underwhelming.” A inside-Mercury-orbiting rock that is over 800 degrees hot? And the Google AI angle was just an algorithm that learned to do pattern recognition on Kepler-data? This isn’t exactly new, just cheaper than the previous alternative. I’m underwhelmed. So many other things NASA could talk about in a press release, and this is the best they can offer?

“Behold, countless Earths sail the galaxies … that is, if you would only believe …


Don’t let Mars fool you. Those exoplanets teem with life!


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