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NASA unveils first science images from TESS probe

TESS images
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, captured this snapshot of the Large Magellanic Cloud (right) and the star R Doradus (left) with a single detector on one of its four wide-field cameras on Aug. 7. (NASA / MIT / TESS Photo)

The first science images from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite focus on a strip of southern sky that includes the two nearest dwarf galaxies and plenty of potential targets in the probe’s planet search.

“In a sea of stars brimming with new worlds, TESS is casting a wide net and will haul in a bounty of promising planets for further study,” Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters, said today in a news release. “This ‘first light’ science image shows the capabilities of TESS’ cameras, and shows that the mission will realize its incredible potential in our search for another Earth.”

TESS was launched from Florida in April by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and the mission team has been spending the past few months getting the spacecraft ready for what’s expected to be a two-year mission.

The newly released imagery was captured by TESS’ four wide-field cameras during a 30-minute session on Aug. 7. The mosaic shows parts of a dozen constellations in the southern hemisphere, from Capricornus to Pictor.

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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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