NASA's planet-hunting TESS catches a comet before starting science

Technicians assist as the SpaceX payload fairing containing the agencys Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite

NASA's new TESS spacecraft - which stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, in case you were wondering - is all ready to get its scientific mission underway, but before its incredible power could be unleashed by researchers it had to be tested by its handlers at NASA. The comet is named C/2018 N1, it is at nearly 48 million kilometers away from our planet and the images captured by TESS show the comet moving over the constellation Piscis Austrinus.

Assumed control through the span of 17 hours on July 25, these TESS pictures exhibited the satellite's capacity to gather a drawn-out set of stable intermittent pictures covering a wide region of the sky - every basic factor in finding traveling planets circling nearby stars.

Celestial body is 48 million miles from Earth in the direction of the constellation southern Fish.

It uses a method called transit - hence the name Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which means that whenever an orbiting planet moves around its star, it will change the way that star shines, causing a dip in its light.

While the comet is undoubtedly the star of the recently released video, the swath of space that was captured also showcased other interesting astronomical activity. C/2018 N1 extends to the top of the frame and gradually pivots as the comet glides the field of view.

Mars lies out of the video frame, but it makes its presence known with a faint beam of light visible.

Asteroids in our solar system appear as small white dots moving across the field of view.

This is stray light from Mars, which is located outside the frame.

"The images were taken when the Red Planet was at its brightest near opposition, or its closest distance, to Earth".

TESS snapped the images on July 25, when it officially started its science operations. The movie presents just a small fraction of TESS's active field of view.

"I'm thrilled that our new planet hunter mission is ready to start scouring our solar system's neighborhood for new worlds", Paul Hertz, director of the NASA Astrophysics division, says in a statement following the start of TESS' operations. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

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