Before NASA’s newest planet-hunter TESS started science operations on July 25, the spacecraft sent back a series of images showing the motion of C/2018 N1, a comet recently discovered by the agency’s NEOWISE satellite.
C/2018 N1, located about 29 million miles (48 million km) from Earth in the southern constellation Piscis Austrinus, is seen to move across the frame from right to left as it orbits the Sun.
The comet’s tail, which consists of gases carried away from the comet by the solar wind, extends to the top of the frame and gradually pivots as the comet glides across the field of view.
In addition to C/2018 N1, the new images from TESS reveal a treasure trove of other astronomical activity.
“The stars appear to shift between white and black as a result of image processing,” the TESS scientists said.
“The shift also highlights variable stars, which change brightness either as a result of pulsation, rapid rotation, or by eclipsing binary neighbors.”
“Asteroids in our Solar System appear as small white dots moving across the field of view.”
“Towards the end of the video, one can see a faint broad arc of light moving across the middle section of the frame from left to right.”
“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.”
These images were taken during a short period near the end of the mission’s commissioning phase, prior to the start of science operations.
The TESS team continues to fine-tune the space telescope’s performance as it searches for extrasolar planets.
Source: Sci News