In March 2018, if all goes as planned, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will send an instrument designed and fabricated at MIT, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), into high Earth orbit...Leading the TESS science team are Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer David Latham ’61 and Sara Seager, MIT’s Class of 1941 Professor of Planetary Science and Professor of Physics, as well as an AeroAstro faculty member...TESS’s unique capabilities should enable it to pick out small, relatively nearby planets (within a few hundred light-years of Earth) that offer at least some of the conditions deemed necessary for life. The ambitious endeavor could give humanity its best shot yet at understanding just how unusual our planet is, or isn’t, in the grand scheme of things.
TESS joins other exoplanetary research underway at MIT. Julien de Wit PhD ’14, a postdoc in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences who recently accepted an offer to join the MIT faculty, is part of an international team that spotted seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1.
Read the full story on MIT Spectrum.