NASA has just shared the very first "science image" captured by its newest exoplanet hunting telescope called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). The image looks like a big mass of bright dots, but the space agency says that it is already providing valuable data that could one day lead to the discovery of new alien worlds.
The image, explains NASA, is a picture of the southern sky and it was shot with all four of TESS wide field cameras. The report mentions that the image was only a part of the data derived from TESS' initial science orbit.
Called the "first light" science image, it shows a wide range of stars and other celestial objects that include star systems that were previously known to contain exoplanets—any planet that is not part of the Solar System.
"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," said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA HQ.
"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."
This image, says NASA, was acquired using all four cameras and it took them about 30 minutes on 7th August. Black lines that can be seen in the image are gaps between camera detectors.
Numerous constellations from Capricornus to Pictor are a part of this image. Along with it are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, these are the galaxies nearest to the Milky Way. NASA goes on to explain that the small bright dot just above the Small Magellanic Cloud is what is called a globular cluster called NGC 104.
The long spikes of light that they saturate entire columns of pixels on the detectors of TESS's second and fourth cameras. They are the Beta Gruis and R Doradus, with the long spikes of light.
"This swath of the sky's southern hemisphere includes more than a dozen stars we know have transiting planets based on previous studies from ground observatories," said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at MIT.