Therefore the follow-up instrument to Kepler, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), has been created to observe the entire sky, and optimized to find stars 30 to 100 times brighter than those Kepler could study.
The new planet hunting satellite will be launched by Elon Musk's company Space X on Monday at Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida.
TESS will find signals of planet candidates, Seager said. "One of the big surprises from Kepler was to find this whole population of planets with sizes between that of Neptune and Earth - and there aren't any in our solar system, zero - and they're everywhere out there", said Latham, who's worked on the Kepler project for almost 20 years. But it was not until the Kepler Space Telescope was launched in 2009 that the exoplanet population exploded.
One of the most important aspects of these exploratory space missions is for scientists to identify more planets that could potentially support life.
The wildly successful Kepler Space Telescope was created to observe faint stars, and monitor them for brief dips in brightness that would indicate the passage of an object-most commonly a planet. TESS will scan nearly the entire sky, looking for telltale signs of planets around closer, brighter stars.
NASA TV is broadcasting TESS-related content up until the launch, and you can watch it all via the embedded video below. There are far more planets in the Milky Way than there are stars. I asked Sara Seager, also at MIT, how close we are to finding Earth's twin. The space telescope, whose launch is planned in 2020, will be studying so-called transitions - moments when planets pass "in front" of their suns (with respect to the telescope).
Liftoff is set for Monday at 6:32 p.m. EDT (2232 GMT).
"TESS will be able to say: there's an interesting system for the Webb telescope, and then it can move on and find another one", Ricker said.
This is the second time NASA is relying on a used Falcon 9 rocket to get equipment to the space station, and it's the third time a used Dragon cargo capsule will carry supplies to the ISS, as well.
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