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NASA’s planet-hunting probe sends first test image

TESS test image
This test image from one of the four cameras aboard the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, captures a swath of the southern sky along the plane of our galaxy. (NASA / MIT / TESS Photo)

One month after its launch, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite has sent back an initial test image that shows more than 200,000 stars in the southern sky.

TESS’ image was taken by one of its cameras with a two-second exposure. The picture is centered on the constellation Centaurus, with the edge of the dark Coalsack Nebula at upper right and the star Beta Centauri prominent along the lower edge.

The picture provides only a hint of what TESS will be seeing once it starts delivering science-quality images next month. When all four wide-field cameras are in operation, TESS’ images should cover more than 400 times as much of the sky.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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