NASA’s TESS satellite launches to look for livable planets nearby

Space X successfully launches TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite a.k.a. "The Planet Hunter." NASA will use it to search for planets that may support extraterrestrial life.

Space X successfully launches TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite a.k.a. "The Planet Hunter." NASA will use it to search for planets that may support extraterrestrial life. 


It will use the Earth's gravity to "slingshot" to where it will end up, and it's a joint NASA/SpaceX venture.

"The Moon and the satellite are in a sort of dance," Joel Villasenor, instrument scientist for TESS at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said. "The Moon pulls the satellite on one side, and by the time TESS completes one orbit, the Moon is on the other side tugging in the opposite direction. The overall effect is the Moon's pull is evened out, and it's a very stable configuration over many years. Nobody's done this before, and I suspect other programs will try to use this orbit later on."

When the Kepler space telescope launched in 2009, its target was to find planets between the size of Earth and Neptune, from 500 and 1500 light year away. 

But TESS is designed to find planets much closer. 

SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak told Space.com, "Kepler is what made us become aware that planets are as common as telephone poles. But the stars that Kepler was staring at for four years … they were all somewhere between 500 and 1,500 light-years away." 

Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

It’s not designed to find Earth-like planets, but instead, planets that are orbiting the “habitable zone” of nearby small stars. Further study can then be done by regular scientific telescopes. 

Since the planets discovered by TESS will be much closer, they can be studied much more easily. Since different gases absorb different light wavelengths, planet atmospheres can be pretty quickly determined, once viable candidates are found. 

Scientists will be specifically looking for signatures of life, such as water vapor, oxygen, methane, and more. 

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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