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On the hunt for exoplanets with TESS: A live Q&A

May 01, 2013|By Deborah Netburn

If you have questions about TESS, the planet-hunting satellite, or the search for exoplanets in general, you've come to the right place.

At noon PDT, the Kavli Foundation will host a live Google Hangout with three leading scientists on NASA's TESS team from the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, or MKI, and you are invited to ask them anything you want.

Participating in the hangout will be George Ricker, principal investigator of the TESS mission; Sara Seager, a professor of planetary science and physics at MKI; and Joshua Winn, deputy science director for the TESS mission.

The Q&A, which will last until 12:30 p.m., will be streamed live above. And if you already have lunch plans, fear not: The full conversation will be available on the Kavli Foundation's website and here for those who were not able to watch it live.

On April 5, NASA announced that TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, had been selected for a planned launch in 2017.

The satellite's mission is to find planets in our solar neighborhood, within 300 light-years from Earth.

Like Kepler, NASA's current exoplanet mission, TESS will look for the periodic dimming of a star that indicates a planet has just passed in front of it. But while Kepler looks deep into a small patch of sky, TESS will scan a much wider breadth of sky hoping to find planets that are close to Earth, and therefore easier to study with terrestrial telescopes.

"In its two-year mission, TESS will cover 400 times the solid angle covered by Kepler," Ricker told the Los Angeles Times. "On average, TESS target stars will be about 10 times closer than Kepler target stars."

The Kavli Foundation periodically hosts live Google Hangouts as a forum for scientists to discuss new research directly with the public.

"We get questions from adult science buffs and middle schoolers," said James Cohen, director of communications for the Kavli Foundation. "There's really nothing like hearing directly from scientists about the work that they do."

If you have questions you want to ask the scientists, you can email them to, or ask the question via Twitter using the hashtag #KavliAstro.

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