NASA’s planet-hunting Tess satellite has beamed back its first image of a stunning celestial swath of sky.
The photo, snapped during the $200 million probe’s fly-by past the moon toward its final orbit beyond our solar system, is jam-packed with 200,000 stars.
It was taken using one of Tess’ four onboard cameras as a part of a two-second exposure test.
The hypnotizing stars captured in the pic are dotted along the southern plane of our galaxy, according to NASA.
To help you get your bearings, the space agency has also pinpointed the photo’s major attractions.
Among the dense body of space objects crammed into the frame is the edge of the Coalsack Nebula in the right upper corner, and the bright star Beta Centauri is visible at the lower left edge.
But this test run is just a tiny snapshot of the epic journey still ahead of the satellite.
Once Tess (aka The Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite) becomes fully operational, NASA expects future science shots to cover more than 400 times as much sky.
A detailed “first light” image released for research purposes is expected to land in June.
After a two-day delay, Tess blasted off into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on April 19.
The launch commenced the beginning of the probe’s two-year quest to seek out more worlds beyond our solar system that might harbor life.
Hundreds of thousands of stars will be scrutinized, with the expectation that thousands of exoplanets, planets outside our own solar system, will be revealed right in our cosmic backyard.
The most promising candidates will be studied by bigger, more powerful observatories of the future, including NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, due to launch in another few years as the heir to Hubble.
“The targets TESS finds are going to be fantastic subjects for research for decades to come,” said Stephen Rinehart, TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
“It’s the beginning of a new era of exoplanet research.”
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