With the launch of TESS, NASA will boost its search for exoplanets

illustration of TESS telescpope

NASA is stepping up its search for planets outside our solar system. Its next exoplanet hunting telescope, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is due to launch from Cape Canaveral on the evening of April 16.

Following the Kepler space telescope’s discovery of more than 5,000 possible exoplanets since 2009, TESS will continue the galactic census — flagging more planetary candidates for further study.

Astronomers expect TESS to find about 20,000 planets in its first two years in operation, focusing on nearby, bright stars that will be easy for other telescopes to investigate later. About 500 of those expected exoplanets would be less than twice the size of Earth — and therefore may be good places to look for life.

NASA’s next exoplanet hunting telescope, TESS

SMALL BUT MIGHTY NASA’s next exoplanet hunting telescope, TESS, is only 1.5 meters tall (shown here with engineers). Its size is partly due to the fact that it was designed to launch on NASA’s small Taurus rocket, but will instead launch on a larger SpaceX Falcon 9 on April 16.

ORBITAL ATK

The TESS mission is “a whole new opening for exoplanet studies,” MIT astronomer Sara Seager, TESS’ deputy science director, said during a news conference describing the upcoming launch.

TESS will be the first NASA science mission launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Once in orbit, the spacecraft will trace an unusual, elliptical path between Earth and the moon that will enable it to observe at least 85 percent of the sky — 350 times as much sky as Kepler saw.

Most of the planets found by Kepler orbit stars 1,000 light-years away or farther. TESS will focus on 200,000 stars that are a few hundred light-years away at most, and shine between 30 to 100 times brighter on average than Kepler’s.

The brighter the star, the easier it is to determine its planet’s characteristics, such as its mass and whether it has an atmosphere, Seager says. “Photons are our currency — the more, the better,” she says.

That follow-up will help TESS avoid some of Kepler’s pitfalls. Because Kepler’s stars were so far and so dim, some of its planet candidates were confirmed as actual planets only by statistics rather than by other telescopes. And not all those confirmations may stick. A recent paper posted at arXiv.org showed that Kepler 452b, an Earth-sized planet that orbits a sunlike star at the same distance Earth orbits the sun, may be a mirage (SN: 8/22/15, p. 16). Many of TESS’ planets won’t face the same uncertainty.

the TESS sattelite

COASTING IN SPACE The TESS satellite’s unusual 13.7-day orbit uses the moon’s gravity to stabilize it, so it needs little fuel. During the part of the orbit colored blue, TESS will observe the sky. During the part marked in orange, it will transmit data back to Earth. The gray ring marks the moon’s orbit.

NASA

But the way TESS will search for exoplanets is the same as Kepler: The satellite will watch stars for signs of dimming, which can indicate that a planet is transiting, or crossing in front of, the star. Measuring how much starlight is blocked can tell astronomers the size of the planet.

Once TESS finds a planet, astronomers will need more information to understand its qualities, such as whether it’s rocky or gassy (SN Online: 6/19/17). For that, other telescopes will follow up. Ground-based telescopes will measure the gravitational tug of a planet on its host star to learn the planet’s density, which is a clue to its composition. Astronomers plan to measure masses for at least 50 TESS planets that are smaller than Neptune in the hopes that many of them will have rocky, and therefore potentially habitable, surfaces.

Undiscovered country

Before TESS, most known planets were more than 1,000 light-years away, with a few closer than 30 light-years (a parsec is 3.26 light-years). TESS (orange circles) will fill in the gap. The size of the circles represents how easy the planets are to find.

graph showing where TESS will be able to detect planets
ZACH BERTA-THOMPSON

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, now scheduled to launch in 2020, will then check some of those planets for signs of life (SN: 4/30/16, p. 32).

“This is one of the major questions that TESS is intended to answer: Where will we be pointing Webb?” said the mission’s principal investigator, MIT astronomer George Ricker, at the press conference. Webb will peer at the starlight filtering through planetary atmospheres to try to detect molecules that could be produced by something living on the surface.

It will take a few months for TESS to swing into its regular orbit before it begins collecting data. At that point, it will be able to use the moon’s gravity to stabilize itself for decades in orbit without using extra fuel. The mission is set to last two years, but could continue taking data almost indefinitely.

“TESS is not going to be limited by any expendable or other aspects,” Ricker said. “It will be basically limited by how long NASA has the patience to fund the mission.”

[“Source-sciencenews”]

Google Search Now Shows a Screening Test If You Search for Depression

Google Search Now Shows a Screening Test If You Search for Depression

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Google to show depression test widgest on similar searches made in the US
  • Google’s Knowledge Panel will walk you through a test series
  • It will also list symptoms and possible treatments for depression

People in the US will soon have an option to take a screening test on Google to know if they are depressed or not.

Now, when users in the US will search for “depression” on Google, they will see a box atop the results on mobile, which the search giant calls a Knowledge Panel. The Knowledge Panel contains information on what depression is, what its symptoms are and the possible treatments.

“Now when you search for ‘clinical depression’ on Google on mobile, you’ll see a Knowledge Panel that will give you the option to tap ‘check if you’re clinically depressed’, which will bring you to PHQ-9, a clinically validated screening questionnaire to test what your likely level of depression may be. To ensure that the information shared in the PHQ-9 questionnaire is accurate and useful, we have partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness on this announcement,” Google said in a blog post.

google depression DepressionAccording to Google spokesperson Susan Cadrecha, cited by The Verge, the feature is being rolled out on mobile in the US soon and it is not meant to subvert a medical evaluation.

“The results of the PHQ-9 can help you have a more informed conversation with your doctor,” according to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which partnered with Google on the questionnaire.

According to NAMI, clinical depression is a fairly common condition with almost one in five Americans experiencing an episode in their lifetime. But only about 50 percent of people who have depression get treated for it.

“Mental health professionals often refer to major depressive disorder as clinically significant depression or clinical depression. Clinical depression is a treatable condition which can impact many aspects of a person’s life. The PHQ-9 can be the first step to getting a proper diagnosis,” the NAMI statement added.

Written with inputs from IANS

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Microsoft’s Email Insights finally adds some useful search smarts to Outlook

email insights search

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Credit: Microsoft

Email Insights, a new experimental app from the Microsoft Garage, is the answer to a problem Google’s Gmail solved more than a decade ago: how to search Outlook and find exactly what you want.

Google’s Gmail gained enormous traction in part because it allowed a quick, convenient way to search emails. Today, you can search Outlook, but it arranges the results in order with no real preference given to what might be most relevant.

Email Insights works with both your Microsoft Outlook desktop application as well as Gmail, and attempts to bring the three most relevant results to the top of your inbox via an “intent pane.” The tool also provides contextual autocomplete, spelling correction and a fuzzy name search that will pull up the name of a contact, even if you’re not entirely sure how to spell it.

email insights intent pane

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Microsoft

The “intent pane” within Email Insights brings up relevant search results to the top of your inbox.

Users can open tabs within Email Insights to perform multiple searches. The search box can also be used to fire off a quick, one-line email to a contact, or even set up a quick meeting—functions that are becoming more common in the notifications window within smartphones.

If you’d like, you can even “detach” the Email Insights toolbar from Outlook itself and drag it down to your taskbar, Microsoft said.

Why this matters: Let’s face it: Gmail is still easier to use than Outlook, at least where everyday email searches are concerned. If Email Insights proves as useful as it sounds, maybe Outlook will incorporate it into a future release. The problem, though, is that this app is being published via Microsoft Garage, Microsoft’s online home for app experiments. If you like Email Insights, encourage others to download it, too. Otherwise, Microsoft could kill it, as it recently did with Cache, its erstwhile Google Keep killer.

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[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Pinterest Introduces Search Ads, Here’s How They Work

Pinterest Search Ads Have Arrived -- Here’s How They Work

Pinterest recently introduced a Search Ads feature with a dozen new clients who will now join a batch of brands including Target, eBay and Home Depot already testing the new service.

“We’re excited to introduce Search Ads on Pinterest: a new way to connect with people searching for your products and services,” said head of global sales John Kaplan in an official post on the Pinterest for Business Blog. “We’re rolling out a full suite of features, including Keyword and Shopping Campaigns that are shown in search results, along with powerful new targeting and reporting options.”

A Look at Pinterest Search Ads

Until now, you could only run Ads using promoted pins, but these ads would only appear alongside relevant searches. Now, with the update, the ads will appear right after someone types in searches.

The ads will run like all PPC campaigns and they will be automatically created from the product inventory, so advertisers will have the option to pay for impressions, pin clicks and engagement.

Additionally, the social network introduced ad groups, which work almost the same way they do on Bing or Google. Bids are optimized at the keyword level, and marketers have the ability to see insights into how users are Pinning images, including the names they are using to save the information.

For now, the service will only be available to a few select advertisers through the Kenshoo platform, but expect this to change in the coming months as additional third-party providers get into the game. It is also highly-likely that at some point Pinterest will introduce a self-service platform.

Pinterest reaches 150 million unique monthly users and sees more than 2 billion searches per month, most of them for services and products people want to buy. The Search Ads update will definitely make the platform even better for advertising.

Image: Pinterest

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[“source-smallbiztrends”]