Any plans for TESS after it finishes northern sky survey?

Any plans for TESS after it finishes northern sky survey?

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TESS has provided the astronomy community with a treasure trove of information.

Once TESS completes its one year survey of the northern sky, are there any plans for an extended mission? Just seems like 27 days is too short to look for three transits of planets orbiting in the habitable zone of M dwarfs. Approximately what percentage of planets orbiting M dwarfs in the habitable zone and transiting our line of sight would be missed by 27 day observations? Are there plans for follow-up observations with telescopes on Earth of 1 or 2 transit events picked up by TESS to confirm planet or not?

Looks like it was a very successful mission with data that will be useful for many years to come.

NASA missions that have gone beyond their original Prime Mission lifetime, such as TESS, go into the NASA Senior Review process every 3 years. The most recent one of these was the 2019 Senior Review which reviewed Hubble, Chandra, Fermi, NuSTAR, NICER, Swift, Newton-XMM along with TESS. This review panel looks at the whole operation of the mission, whether it's doing good science, how the operations are conducted, how much lifetime there is left in the spacecraft and the cost of continuing operations.

The full panel report is available but all 8 missions were recommended for continued funding and TESS was rated as "best of the rest", just behind Hubble and Chandra (which have an enormous science legacy). The panel report is a recommendation to NASA but they normally follow the report as best they can and as the budget permits (Congress can, and occasionally does, intervene in this process by adding or removing funding for specific missions).

As detailed in the NASA response to the panel, the 8 missions were all extended for the Fiscal Year 2020-2022 but as noted, this is contingent on NASA's Astrophysics Division receiving the funding it asked for in the FY2020 Presidential Budget Request and the Congressional budgeting process. Extensions beyond 2022 are possible but depend on the results of the 2022 Senior Review. The TESS spacecraft is in a very stable orbit which allows it to maintain the orbit with minimal use of the propellant consumables on board (which normally sets the end of the mission as was the case for Kepler/K2 for example)

The panel noted:

The expected planetary return for TESS's extended mission is high, pushing well beyond the prime mission. Due to the longer time baseline, together with solid Kepler exoplanet demographic statistics, the team makes a strong case that the extended mission will nearly triple the detection of planets smaller than 4 Earth radii in the extended mission, compared to the prime mission, nearly triple the number of detected planets in the habitable zone, and more than triple the number of planets with periods beyond 20 days

Follow That Planet! How Astronomers Chase New Worlds in TESS Data

As pink liquid oozed around her shoes, astronomer Johanna Teske started to feel sick. She had been looking for new planets with the Planet Finder Spectrograph, an astronomical instrument resembling an industrial-sized refrigerator mounted to the Magellan II telescope. One night in October 2018, a hose leading to the instrument burst, causing pink coolant to spill onto sensitive parts of the instrument and the surrounding platform. Would Teske's search be ruined?

Ground-Based Observatories

All planet candidates found by space telescopes like TESS must be confirmed by other observatories. Scientists around the world are combing through TESS data, choosing stars that could be promising to observe from the ground and booking time at powerful ground-based telescopes to follow up on new planet candidates. The race is on to see which of those TESS signals point to real new worlds.

Teske uses the Magellan II telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile to locate planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets, and find out what they are made of. To date, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered, but science has shown that there must be billions, or even trillions, in our galaxy alone. NASA's newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), searches for possible planets around nearby bright stars.

Many teams of scientists around the world are currently combing through TESS data, choosing stars that could be promising to observe from the ground and booking time at powerful telescopes to follow up on new planet candidates. The race is on to see which of those TESS signals represent some sort of imposter, and which point to real new worlds.

As a NASA Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California, Teske was excited to join this race. Her group received NASA funding to look for planets with three times the radius of Earth or less, which would include oddball planets called "super-Earths." Super-Earths are thought to be rocky like Earth, but slightly bigger than our planet. In October 2018, Teske and colleagues began TESS follow-up observations for the first time. But about midway through their two-week run, during their clearest night, the pipe burst.

Could the pipe get fixed and the mess cleaned up soon enough to save the rest of Teske's observing time? Would she and her team gather any valuable data about exoplanets?

Successful Launch for NASA’s TESS Exoplanet Mission

By: Elizabeth Howell April 19, 2018 2

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Another planet-hunter is on its way to search for strange new worlds. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched successfully on April 18th at 6:51 p.m. EDT aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to survey the entire sky for exoplanets.

NASA’s next planet-hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, successfully launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 on April 18, 2018. TESS will search for new worlds outside our solar system for further study.
NASA Television

The mission is coming just in time, as NASA's epic exoplanet mission, Kepler, is dying. Recently, the agency announced the spacecraft will run out of fuel in the coming months. Like Kepler, TESS will be looking for the brief dips in starlight created when exoplanets transit their stars. But unlike Kepler, which aimed to take a census of planets around Sun-like stars and therefore aimed toward a small field containing 150,000 mostly faraway stars, TESS will be examining the brightest stars near Earth. The planets it finds will be more easily studied through follow-up observations on the ground and in space.

Funding has been approved for the mission's first two years, but George Ricker (MIT), TESS's principal investigator, says the spacecraft is built to last: ""TESS will be able to operate for 10 or 20 years." So far, the mission has cost less than $200 million, excluding launch expenses.

The spacecraft will operate in a lunar-resonant orbit, dubbed P/2, that requires a minimum of operational fuel. TESS will circle Earth every 13.7 days – half of the Moon's orbital period. This orbit is extremely stable and maximizes TESS's ability to view the entire sky. It also allows TESS to send full-frame images back to Earth on every close pass.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

After launch TESS orbited Earth three times. Next, it will perform a lunar flyby.

"We get a gravitational assist by going by the Moon, and we don't have to use as much propulsion in adjusting the orbit," Ricker says. "We [also] put the orbit inclination up to about 40 degrees relative to the ecliptic," he adds. Otherwise, TESS would experience Moon or Earth eclipses every month, limiting its observations.

TESS's final orbit will have a perigee of 67,000 miles (110,000 kilometers) and an apogee of 232,000 miles (373,000 kilometers).

Engineers will give TESS a week after launch for instrument outgassing, then they will begin testing the instruments and ensure the spacecraft points correctly. The team will also take test images of star fields to check the sensitivity of the cameras and to understand how cosmic rays, which can generate false signals, affect the images. Software will easily remove the cosmic rays.

TESS will likely start its first survey in mid-June. As TESS points away from the Sun, June will see it aiming toward the galactic center in Sagittarius, Ricker says. TESS will remain there for a 27-day exposure, then move to the next anti-solar location every 27 days.

TESS's pointing direction will give ground observers an advantage, since its field of view is the local meridian at midnight. It provides ample opportunity for other telescopes to confirm the exoplanets it finds, Ricker says. "For a lot of missions, the satellites are typically looking 90 degrees to the Earth-sun line, and you'll be in a situation [on the ground] where it hasn't risen yet, or is setting."

TESS has funding for two years of operations. During its first year, it will circle the Southern Hemisphere each 24-by-24-degree field of view will overlap in the ecliptic pole, providing about a year’s worth of coverage at the pole. Then TESS will switch to the Northern Hemisphere for its second year, performing the same type of survey there. While circling the north pole, some of TESS's observations will follow up on Kepler's first four years of data collection in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra.

If funding continues into a third year, long-term plans for TESS include continuing the Kepler mission’s K2 survey along the ecliptic plane. "We don't wait too long" to follow up on K2 discoveries of possible exoplanets, Ricker says. "Typically the periods are not well-enough established that you can extrapolate the orbits any more than two or three years."

Get full details on the TESS mission and all it will accomplish in the March 2018 issue of Sky & Telescope.

TESS's First Year of Science

By: Diana Hannikainen August 2, 2019 0

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NASA’s latest exoplanet hunter has found more than two dozen new worlds, at least one of which might be habitable.

The prospect of finding an Earth-like exoplanet has long fueled the imagination of scientists and laypeople alike. Now NASA’s latest planet-hunting mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), might just rustle up such a world.

This past week, nearly 300 planet hunters and assorted scientists congregated in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to share their findings at the first conference dedicated to the science emerging from the TESS mission since the spacecraft’s launch in April 2018.

This artist's illustration shows what the GJ 357 system might look like.
Jack Madden / Cornell University

TESS Science Conference I coincides with the start of the mission’s second year of science operations. A couple of weeks ago, TESS flipped from observing the celestial southern hemisphere to the northern one, and during the conference week has pointed at the Kepler mission’s original star field.

TESS’s goal is to find planets around bright stars within 200 light-years of Earth. The spacecraft’s unique 13.7-day lunar resonant orbit takes it along a highly elongated path that loops nearly as far away from Earth as the Moon does. In this orbit, few disturbing forces act on the satellite, allowing the instruments to operate stably, principal investigator George Ricker (MIT) explained in the conference’s opening session.

The spacecraft’s mode of operation divides the sky into 26 sectors, long strips that extend from each pole to near the ecliptic. It completed its scans of all 13 sectors in the southern hemisphere during the first year of operations. TESS TOI (TESS Object of Interest) manager Natalia Guerrero (MIT) brought the audience up to date with the current status of cataloging and identifying TESS objects: Thus far, TESS has identified 993 planet candidates in the 12 southern sectors (the 13th sector is currently being analyzed), of which 271 are smaller than Neptune. These numbers were updated during the week when the announcement of two newly identified systems, TOI 270 and GJ 357, rippled through the attendees, bringing the number of confirmed TESS exoplanets to 28.

Both of the new systems, anchored by small, M dwarf stars, are thought to host three exoplanets each. Lisa Kaltenegger (Cornell) is particularly excited about GJ 357, located at a distance of 31 light-years. Astronomers found the innermost world with TESS, and then discovered the other two with ground-based observations of the star’s wobble in response to its orbiting exoplanets. The outermost planet, GJ 357d, is a super-Earth weighing in at about 6 Earth masses that most likely orbits in the star’s habitable zone — the place where, if the world is rocky and has an Earth-like atmosphere, liquid water could exist on its surface.

The outermost planet of the GJ 357 system orbits within the habitable zone. If it has a dense enough atmosphere and a surface, liquid water may exist there.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Chris Smith

What excites Kaltenegger and her team is that this planet should be relatively bright. “Bright means we get enough light to split it up into colors, and this will tell us about the composition of its atmosphere,” she says. It’s therefore one of the best targets to date for follow-up observations with more powerful telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope or the Extremely Large Telescope, which may reveal whether the exoplanet has an atmosphere or not — and if it does, what that atmosphere is composed of. “I like our chances,” Kaltenegger concludes.

Even More Science with TESS

TESS can do more than search for exoplanets, as numerous talks and a plethora of posters informed. TESS can detect many kinds of transient events, such as luminous supernovae. It’s also finding asteroids and detecting exocomets, as it did around Beta Pictoris, confirming earlier spectroscopic and photometric comet detections.

TESS is also discovering other transiting bodies, such as brown dwarfs. Roughly the size of the most massive gas giants, these objects are often considered to be “failed” stars. The very first brown dwarf discovered by TESS is TOI-503 and is currently being analyzed in depth by a group led by astronomers in the Czech Republic. PhD student Ján Šubjak (Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences) presented the ongoing work in a poster session. (Incidentally, the work brought with it another first: Šubjak's visit to Massachusetts gave him his first glimpse of the ocean.)

The TESS mission has been extended through 2022, with options to go beyond. During the next year the team will complete the northern hemisphere map, and then move onto the extended phase, after which the sky covered by TESS will be 94%. The extended mission is expected to bring in results on long-period planets and identify more habitable-zone planets and multiple-planet systems, among other goals. TESS scientists already collaborate with an extensive network of ground-based astronomers for follow-up studies, and Ricker is looking forward to expanding that network and overlap with current and upcoming missions, such as CHEOPS and JWST. We might be very close indeed to identifying an Earth analog.

NASA’s TESS Telescope Takes Its First Image

Illustration of NASA’s TESS spacecraft observing an M-dwarf star with orbiting planets. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

TESS was launched on April 18, 2018, with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

This new planet-hunter will focus on stars between 30 and 300 light-years away. It will survey more than 200,000 target stars, viewing large parts of the sky for 27 days at a time.

For its two-year mission, astronomers divided the sky into 26 sectors: TESS will use four unique wide-field cameras to map 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky during its first year of observations and 13 sectors of the northern sky during the second year, altogether covering 85% of the sky.

The telescope will be watching for phenomena called transits.

A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of its star from the observer’s perspective, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star’s brightness.

The brightness of these target stars will allow astronomers to use spectroscopy, the study of the absorption and emission of light, to determine a planet’s mass, density and atmospheric composition. Water, and other key molecules, in its atmosphere can give us hints about a planets’ capacity to harbor life.

This test image from one of the four cameras aboard NASA’s TESS spacecraft captures a swath of the southern sky along the plane of the Milky Way. Image credit: NASA / MIT / TESS.

On May 17, TESS passed about 5,000 miles (8,050 km) from the Moon, which provided a gravity assist that helped the spacecraft sail toward its final working orbit.

TESS will undergo one final thruster burn on May 30 to enter its science orbit around Earth.

This highly elliptical orbit will maximize the amount of sky the telescope can image, allowing it to continuously monitor large swaths of the sky.

TESS is expected to begin science operations in mid-June after reaching this orbit and completing camera calibrations.

As part of camera commissioning, the TESS team snapped a two-second test exposure using one of its four cameras.

The image, centered on the southern constellation Centaurus, reveals more than 200,000 stars. The edge of the Coalsack Nebula is in the right upper corner and the bright star Beta Centauri is visible at the lower left edge.

TESS is expected to cover more than 400 times as much sky as shown in this image with its four cameras during its initial two-year search for exoplanets.


TESS is optimized for the detection of hundreds of Super Earths around nearby, bright stars. TESS has four identical cameras that will together survey the entire sky throughout its two-year prime mission.

The cameras are equipped with custom f/1.4 lenses, providing each camera with a wide (24×24 degree) field of view. The cameras have an effective aperture size of 10cm (about 4 inches) in diameter, which was determined by simulating the detectability of planets. High cadence is needed for the detection of exoplanets, so exposures of planet search targets and other stars of particular interest are obtained every 2 minutes with full-frame images (FFIs) of the entire field of view returned every 30 minutes, see full frame images.

TESS uses a red-optical bandpass covering the wavelength range from about 600 to 1000 nm. The lenses were optimized for this bandpass, with blue limit enforced by a coating on one of the optical elements. The limit at the red edge is determined by the quantum efficiency (QE) of the CCD detectors. The detectors are back-illuminated CCDs from MIT/Lincoln Lab, with 4096×4096 pixels fitted within 62×62 mm area. The imaging area consists of 2048×2048 pixels, with the remaining pixels used as a frame-store to allow rapid (about 4 ms), shutterless readout with read noise of less than 10 electrons per second. The CCDs operate at a temperature of around -75 deg C, which reduces dark current to a negligible level.

The CCDs read out continuously at 2-second intervals. The data are processed on the spacecraft by the data handling unit (DHU for TESS, the DHU is a Space Micro Image Processing Computer). The DHU stacks the 2-second images in groups of 60 to produce the 2-minute or 30-minute cadence for observations. Postage stamps (at 2-minute cadence, nominally 10×10 pixels in size) and FFIs (at 30-minute cadence) are compressed and stored in two 192 GB solid-state buffer (SSB) cards. The data from the SSBs are returned to Earth when the spacecraft reaches perigee, every 13.7 days.

NASA’s next exoplanet hunter will seek worlds close to home

Filling the shoes of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft won’t be easy. Since its launch in 2009, Kepler has discovered nearly three-quarters of the 3,700-plus known exoplanets. And there are thousands more candidates waiting to be confirmed.

So NASA is taking a different approach with its next planet-hunting mission. On 16 April, the agency plans to launch the US$337-million Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which will scrutinize 200,000 nearby bright stars for signs of orbiting planets. TESS will probably find fewer worlds than Kepler did, but they will arguably be more important ones.

“It’s not so much the numbers of planets that we care about, but the fact that they are orbiting nearby stars,” says Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge and deputy science director for TESS.

TESS is meant to identify planets that are close enough to Earth for astronomers to explore them in detail. Team scientists estimate 1 that the spacecraft will discover more than 500 planets that are no more than twice the size of Earth. These worlds will form the basis for decades of further studies, including searches for signs of life. “We’ll see a whole new opening of exoplanet studies,” Seager says.

Meeting the neighbours

Both Kepler and TESS are designed to scan the sky for planetary transits, the slight dimming that occurs when a planet moves across the face of a star and temporarily blocks some of its glow. For most of its mission, Kepler stared at a deep but narrow slice of the Universe — peering out some 920 parsecs (3,000 light years) from Earth but covering only 0.25% of the sky. Its celestial census showed that planets were common throughout the Milky Way. “We found that planets are everywhere,” says Elisa Quintana, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

By contrast, TESS will go shallow and broad — looking at stars within 90 parsecs of Earth but covering more than 85% of the sky. Its 4 cameras will give the spacecraft a field of view about 20 times the size of Kepler’s. TESS will sweep the southern sky first and then, after a year, turn its attention to northern stars all told, it will observe at least 30 million celestial objects.

The observing swathes will overlap at the south and north ecliptic poles, which are points perpendicular to the plane of Earth’s orbit. That’s by design, because NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, now planned for a 2020 launch, will also be able to study those regions at any given time. Webb’s 6.5-metre primary mirror will allow detailed spectroscopic studies of the planets’ atmospheres, but it will be in high demand for a range of other astronomical research. “The time on Webb is going to be so precious,” says George Ricker, an astrophysicist at MIT and TESS’s principal investigator.

Once TESS spots interesting planetary candidates, a fleet of Earth-based observatories will kick into action. These will include planet-hunting stalwarts such as the HARPS instrument at the European Southern Observatory in La Silla, Chile, and the new Miniature Exoplanet Radial Velocity Array (MINERVA)-Australis, a group of five planned 0.7-metre telescopes near Toowoomba, Australia. “We have the ability to hammer on a target every night if we need to,” says Rob Wittenmyer, an astronomer at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba who helps lead MINERVA-Australis.

These and other ground-based telescopes will be able to deduce the TESS planets’ masses, and from that their composition — whether rocky, icy, gassy or something else.

Recent research suggests that TESS may yield a greater bounty than once thought. Earlier this year, MIT astronomer Sarah Ballard re-calculated how many planets TESS might find orbiting the cool, plentiful stars known as M dwarfs — and predicted some 990 such planets, 1.5 times more than earlier estimates 2 . The sheer volume of discoveries would allow astronomers to begin comparing broad classes of exoplanets: learning how stellar flares affect planetary atmospheres, for instance, or what sorts of planets surround stars of different ages.

TESS will soon have company. The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to launch its Characterising Exoplanet Satellite late this year. The craft will measure the sizes of known planets — from those a little bigger than Earth to ones that are roughly Neptune-sized — orbiting nearby bright stars. ESA is also planning two missions for the 2020s: PLATO to study Earth-sized exoplanets, and ARIEL to study planetary atmospheres.

The next generation of missions will come just in time: Kepler is on its last legs, with only a few months’ worth of fuel left to help it make its final discoveries.

NASA's TESS presents panorama of southern sky

The glow of the Milky Way -- our galaxy seen edgewise -- arcs across a sea of stars in a new mosaic of the southern sky produced from a year of observations by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Constructed from 208 TESS images taken during the mission's first year of science operations, completed on July 18, the southern panorama reveals both the beauty of the cosmic landscape and the reach of TESS's cameras.

"Analysis of TESS data focuses on individual stars and planets one at a time, but I wanted to step back and highlight everything at once, really emphasizing the spectacular view TESS gives us of the entire sky," said Ethan Kruse, a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow who assembled the mosaic at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Within this scene, TESS has discovered 29 exoplanets, or worlds beyond our solar system, and more than 1,000 candidate planets astronomers are now investigating.

TESS divided the southern sky into 13 sectors and imaged each one of them for nearly a month using four cameras, which carry a total of 16 charge-coupled devices (CCDs). Remarkably, the TESS cameras capture a full sector of the sky every 30 minutes as part of its search for exoplanet transits. Transits occur when a planet passes in front of its host star from our perspective, briefly and regularly dimming its light. During the satellite's first year of operations, each of its CCDs captured 15,347 30-minute science images. These images are just a part of more than 20 terabytes of southern sky data TESS has returned, comparable to streaming nearly 6,000 high-definition movies.

In addition to its planet discoveries, TESS has imaged a comet in our solar system, followed the progress of numerous stellar explosions called supernovae, and even caught the flare from a star ripped apart by a supermassive black hole. After completing its southern survey, TESS turned north to begin a year-long study of the northern sky.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts MIT's Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

Next-generation astronomical survey makes its first observations

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The fifth phase of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, an ongoing initiative to map the universe that includes Penn State scientists, collected its very first observations of the cosmos at 1:47 a.m. on Oct. 24. This groundbreaking all-sky survey will bolster our understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies — like our own Milky Way — and the supermassive black holes that lurk at their centers.

SDSS-V will continue the path-breaking tradition set by the survey's previous generations, the first of which began collecting data in 2000. Penn State astronomers have held leadership roles in all of five phases of the program.

“For over two decades the SDSS has made major contributions to our understanding of the universe, from asteroids in our solar system, the structure of the Milky Way, and the basic structure of the universe,” said Donald Schneider, a member of the executive committee of the SDSS-V Advisory Council and distinguished professor and head of Penn State’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. “As we embark on this new ambitious endeavor, I have no doubt that the observations in SDSS-V, obtained using telescopes in two hemispheres, will answer fundamental mysteries about the cosmos.”

SDSS-V will focus on the ever-changing night sky and the physical processes that drive these changes, from the flickers and flares of supermassive black holes to the back-and-forth shifts of stars being orbited by distant worlds. SDSS-V will provide the spectroscopic backbone needed to achieve the full science potential of satellites like NASA’s TESS, ESA’s Gaia, and the latest all-sky X-ray mission, eROSITA.

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s fifth generation made its first observations earlier this month. This image shows a sampling of data from those first SDSS-V data. The central sky image is a single field of SDSS-V observations. The purple circle indicates the telescope’s field-of-view on the sky, with the full Moon shown as a size comparison. SDSS-V simultaneously observes 500 targets at a time within a circle of this size. The left panel shows the optical-light spectrum of a quasar--a supermassive black hole at the center of a distant galaxy, which is surrounded by a disk of hot, glowing gas. The purple blob is an SDSS image of the light from this disk, which in this dataset spans about 1 arcsecond on the sky, or the width of a human hair as seen from about 21 meters (63 feet) away. The right panel shows the image and spectrum of a white dwarf --the left-behind core of a low-mass star (like the Sun) after the end of its life.

“In a year when humanity has been challenged across the globe, I am so proud of the worldwide SDSS team for demonstrating — every day — the very best of human creativity, ingenuity, improvisation and resilience. It has been a challenging period for the team, but I’m happy to say that the pandemic may have slowed us, but it has not stopped us,” said SDSS-V Director Juna Kollmeier of the Carnegie Observatories.

Funded primarily by member institutions, along with grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the U.S. National Science Foundation, and the Heising-Simons Foundation, SDSS-V will focus on three primary areas of investigation, each exploring different aspects of the cosmos using different tools in spectroscopy — a technique that reveals information about objects based on the various wavelengths of light they emit. Together these three project pillars — called “Mappers”—will observe more than six million objects in the sky, and monitor changes in more than a million of those objects over time.

The survey’s Local Volume Mapper will enhance our understanding of galaxy formation and evolution by probing the interactions between the stars that make up galaxies and the interstellar gas and dust that is dispersed between them, said the researchers. The Milky Way Mapper will reveal the physics of stars in our Milky Way, the diverse architectures of its star and planetary systems, and the chemical enrichment of our galaxy since the early universe. The Black Hole Mapper will measure masses and growth over cosmic time of the supermassive black holes that reside in the hearts of galaxies as well as the smaller black holes left behind when stars die.

"I'm excited to use the new SDSS-V data to measure black-hole masses in the distant universe and investigate the powerful, galaxy-shaping winds of quasars,” said W. Niel Brandt, Verne M. Willaman Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State.

SDSS-V will operate out of both Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, home of the survey’s original 2.5-meter telescope, and Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, where it uses the 2.5-meter du Pont telescope.

SDSS-V's first observations were gathered in New Mexico with existing SDSS instruments, as a necessary change of plans due to the pandemic. As laboratories and workshops around the world navigate safe reopening, SDSS-V's own suite of new innovative hardware is on the horizon — in particular, systems of automated robots to aim the fiber optic cables used to collect the light from the night sky. These will be installed at both observatories over the next year. New spectrographs and telescopes are also being constructed to enable the Local Volume Mapper observations.

“SDSS-V will continue to transform astronomy by building on a 20-year legacy of path-breaking science, shedding light on the most fundamental questions about the origins and nature of the universe,” said Evan Michelson, program director at the Sloan Foundation. “It demonstrates all the hallmark characteristics that have made SDSS so successful in the past: open sharing of data, inclusion of diverse scientists, and collaboration across numerous institutions."


Go to Data Access

Current data: Data Release 16

Future Data Releases

The final Data Release of SDSS-IV is scheduled for July 2021, and will include all APOGEE-2, eBOSS and MaNGA spectra observed during SDSS-IV, as well as all final data products and catalogs.

In addition to the final eBOSS clustering samples, DR17 will include new single-fiber, optical spectra associated with a completed reverberation mapping program and a pilot program of X-ray counterparts.

Future Plans

SDSS-V will start observations in summer 2020, with its first data release expected two years later. Surveys in SDSS-V include Milky Way Mapper, Local Volume Mapper and Black Hole Mapper. Read more about these surveys on the Future Page.

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The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has been one of the most successful surveys in the history of astronomy.

Learn about our rich scientific history, explore and analyze the data, and use our resources in science education.

Looking for the original website? It and Data Releases 1-7 are fully intact and can now be found on the “SDSS Classic” website.

We continue to maintain the website. Data Releases 8-10 can be found there.

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Discovering the Universe at all scales


Funding for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, and the Participating Institutions. SDSS acknowledges support and resources from the Center for High-Performance Computing at the University of Utah. The SDSS web site is

SDSS is managed by the Astrophysical Research Consortium for the Participating Institutions of the SDSS Collaboration including the Brazilian Participation Group, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA), the Chilean Participation Group, the French Participation Group, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, The Johns Hopkins University, Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU) / University of Tokyo, the Korean Participation Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Leibniz Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie (MPIA Heidelberg), Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik (MPA Garching), Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik (MPE), National Astronomical Observatories of China, New Mexico State University, New York University, University of Notre Dame, Observatório Nacional / MCTI, The Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, United Kingdom Participation Group, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, University of Arizona, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Oxford, University of Portsmouth, University of Utah, University of Virginia, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin, Vanderbilt University, and Yale University.

Watch the video: One Year, Almost 1,000 Planetary Candidates. An Update On TESS (July 2022).


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