NASA’s exoplanet hunting satellite is back and working

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a space exoplanet hunter, resumed operations following a glitch that caused it to go into Safe Mode earlier this week.

The matter began on Wednesday, October 12, when a problem arose with the satellite’s computer. “The spacecraft is in a stable configuration which suspends scientific observations. The preliminary investigation revealed that the TESS flight computer has undergone a reset, “NASA wrote in an update at the time.” The TESS operations team reported that scientific data not yet sent to the ground appears to be stored in a safe on the satellite. Recovery procedures and investigations are underway to resume normal operations, which could take several days. “

Artistic illustration of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey satellite. NASA

Fortunately, the problem was resolved quickly. The NASA team overseeing TESS turned it back on and the spacecraft was able to orient itself correctly. The recently collected data appears intact and will be downloaded soon and the satellite should be able to resume its operations. However, the team does not yet know the underlying cause of the computer recovery. NASA says the team will continue to investigate to try and identify the cause of the problem.

TESS was launched in 2018 and orbits the Earth in a highly elliptical orbit that allows it to see the skies of both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Use the transit method to detect exoplanets. Since exoplanets are relatively small and very distant, they generally cannot be directly imaged. Instead, their presence is inferred from their effects on host stars. A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of its star, which reduces that star’s apparent brightness for a short time. By detecting these transit events, TESS can identify new exoplanets.

So far, TESS has discovered over 5,000 candidate exoplanets on its mission, which lasted just over four years. Many of these are considered candidate rather than confirmed planets because multiple observations are needed to confirm the status of a potential planet. Some of the planets or planetary candidates TESS has discovered include a planet that a year only lasts eight hours, several potentially habitable worlds, and a strange planet that was supposed to be swallowed by its star.

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