Since the 1995 confirmation of exoplanet 51 Pegasi b, the word exoplanet—a planet orbiting another star—has become a part of the vernacular. And thanks to technologies like the 2009-launched Kepler spacecraft, we’ve continued to discover around 4,000 exoplanets “hundreds or thousands of light years away” in just “one small patch of the Milky Way near the constellation Cygnus.”
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will discover thousands of exoplanets in orbit around the brightest stars in the sky. In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, TESS will monitor more than 200,000 stars for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. This first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. No ground-based survey can achieve this feat.
Learn more about the endeavor with The New York Times‘ Out There video above: How NASA’s TESS Spacecraft Will Hunt Exoplanets.
Related reading: NASA’s Exoplanets 101, EarthSky’s What is an exoplanet?, and Ars Technica’s Number of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy: Tens of billions.Related watching on this site: How to Find a Living Planet and How do we know what stars are made of?