Finding Planets Beyond Our Solar System with TESS

What planets orbit the stars shining brightly in our night sky? Meet astronomers studying these exciting planets with NASA’s TESS telescope. Learn with hands-on activities about TESS and how astronomers at MIT and Harvard use this tiny but mighty telescope to find weird and wonderful worlds called “exoplanets”.

Astronomers today have found more than 5000 exoplanets! Exoplanets, or extrasolar planets, are planets found outside our solar system. Many telescopes have been used to find these planets, including TESS, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, in operation since 2018! TESS finds exoplanets by looking for dimming in the light seen from stars all over the sky. These dimming events–called transits–are caused by planets orbiting these stars and blocking some of the starlight from reaching our telescopes. Computer algorithms are used to find patterns in the length of time between these transits, determining if the dimming is periodic which is a sign of a possible new exoplanet! Astronomers at MIT and across the world work together to carefully identify which candidates are actually exoplanets.

Join us for several hands-on activities to learn more about how TESS finds these alien planets and what these planets might look like! See first hand how the transit method for finding exoplanets works with a visual demonstration. Learn about different types of exoplanets, what they would look like, and how they might compare to planets in our own solar system. Are these planets like Earth or Jupiter? Do they have rings? Do they have clouds? Can people live on these planets? Put your imagination to the test by creating your very own exoplanet!

Oct 9, 2022
12:00 PM
- 04:00 PM
Discovery Zone: Kendall/MIT Open Space
Kendall/MIT Open Space, Main Street, Cambridge, MA
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About the

Cambridge Science Festival, the first of its kind in the United States, is a madcap celebration of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM). A multifaceted, multicultural event, the Festival makes science accessible, interactive, and fun, highlighting the impact of STEAM in all our lives.

The Cambridge Science Festival was founded by and is produced by the MIT Museum.