fe201812

"First Light" Image from Tess Released
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
News Feature

NASA's newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is now providing valuable data to help scientists discover and study exciting new exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system. Part of the data from TESS’ initial science orbit includes a detailed picture of the southern sky taken with all four of the spacecraft’s wide-field cameras. This "first light" science image captures a wealth of stars and other objects, including systems previously known to have exoplanets.

A press release describing this newly-released image from TESS can be found at https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2018/nasa-s-tess-shares-first-scien...

Dozens of scientists, including graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., will play important roles in TESS and the science the telescope is expected to achieve.

CfA astronomer David Latham serves as the Project Science Director, and will oversee the TESS Follow-up Observing Program. This program will include measuring the mass of 50 exoplanets with four times the radius of Earth or smaller. Another goal is to foster communication and coordination among the TESS science team and the community.

The CfA will provide follow-up observations of TESS targets using its MEarth telescopes, a pair of robotically-controlled observatories, each comprising eight 40 cm telescopes, located at the Smithsonian's Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO) outside Tucson, AZ, and on Cerro Tololo in Chile. Astronomers will also use the CfA's Keplercam on the 48-inch telescope and the Tillinghast Reflector Echelle Spectrograph (TRES) at FLWO. The MEarth and KeplerCam observations will be used to confirm the star responsible for the transit events identified by TESS, and TRES will be used to track down false positives due to eclipsing binaries. TRES will also provide improved stellar parameters for the host stars, which is important because the radius of a transiting planet is relative to the size of the star it orbits. These observations at FLWO and CTIO will be critical for identifying the best candidates for very precise radial velocity observations with HARPS-N on the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo on La Palma in the Canary Islands, which will be used to derive the orbits and masses of small planets.