The Milky Way looks grand in this TESS view of the southern sky.
NASA/MIT/TESS and Ethan Kruse (USRA)
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is a planet hunter extraordinaire that gets to gaze deeply into space. This circular image represents TESS’ view of the southern sky, complete with a stunning appearance by the Milky Way.
NASA released the mosaic on Tuesday. It consists of 208 images taken in TESS’ first year of operation through July 2019. The spacecraft trained its four cameras on 13 different sections of the southern sky and spent nearly a month watching each area.
TESS is looking for the telltale dimming of stars that shows exoplanets have passed in front of them.
You can cozy up with the image in a NASA video that highlights some of the features you might otherwise overlook, like the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Coalsack Nebula, the star Alpha Centauri and Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.
The video points out the locations of exoplanets confirmed by TESS observations. There are also a ton of candidate exoplanets that scientists are still working to confirm.
TESS is now focused on imaging the northern sky, where astronomers expect to find many more potential exoplanets.
TESS tells us our solar system is not a lonely place. There are a lot of other planets out there, living their lives around distant stars.