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Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite Science Processing Operations Center Completes Prime Sky Survey Mission
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Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite Science Processing Operations Center Completes Prime Sky Survey Mission

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Science Processing Operations Center (SPOC) has completed processing for the two-year prime sky survey mission. High-quality science products for 26 observing sectors are publicly available at the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, corresponding to over 39 TBs of data and 500K light curves for TESS targets stars. SPOC-identified Threshold Crossing Events (TCEs) from sector and multi-sector transiting-planet searches have contributed to the identification of 2,120 planet candidates and 66 confirmed planets (as of July 27).

BACKGROUND: Launched April 18, 2018, TESS is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-led NASA mission to search for transiting exoplanets around nearby, bright stars. The TESS ground segment includes the SPOC at NASA Ames Research Center, which is responsible for processing raw TESS data into final, high-quality science data products that are archived and disseminated to the public. Leveraging expertise and legacy capabilities from the Kepler mission and the follow-on K2 mission, the SPOC has collaborated with the NASA Ames Supercomputing (NAS) division (Code TN) to enable large-scale processing of 2-min image data from calibration to transit-search. The SPOC also calibrates TESS Full Frame Image (FFI) data that collectively cover a 24° x 96° region of the sky (at 30-min intervals in the primary mission and 10-min intervals in the extended mission).

The SPOC data processing pipeline has outperformed requirements with a computing throughput average of 6.1 days per sector (easily meeting the 18.2-day project requirement) and delivery of all results from each observing sector on an average of 32.8 days (well within the 42.7-day project requirement). The efforts of the SPOC group have also enabled the incorporation of critical new features in the TESS pipeline through the prime mission. Algorithmic identification and exclusion of image data corrupted by large spacecraft pointing excursions has permitted SPOC processing to remain automated in the face of unexpected spacecraft behavior. Automated identification and flagging of image data impacted by scattered light from the Moon and Earth allows the transit search to be optimized for each target star. Iterative identification and deemphasis of image frames that systematically contribute to excess numbers of transit detections improve the fidelity of reported TCEs while reducing the number of false positives. Driven by interest from the science community, the SPOC has also developed the capability to generate light curves at-scale from the TESS FFI data. SPOC data products supported the collective success of the mission with over 325 publications submitted based on TESS data (as of July 27).

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Explorers program, Explorers and Heliophysics Projects Division (EHPD), Science Mission Directorate (SMD)

TEAM: Doug Caldwell (SST), Chris Henze (TNC), Jon Jenkins (TESS SPOC Lead, TI/TNC), Mark Rose, Jeffrey Smith, Peter Tenenbaum, Eric Ting (TI ASR), Joseph Twicken, and Bill Wohler (PX); PREVIOUS TEAM MEMBERS: Jennifer Campbell, Roberto Carlino, Miles Cote, Misty Davies (TI RSE), Forrest Girouard, Todd C. Klaus, Jie Li (TI/AOX), Masoud Mansouri, Sean McCauliff, Rob Morris, and Dwight Sanderfer (TI/AOO); NAS SYSTEM ADMINISTRATORS: Bill Arasin (TN) and Andy Meyer (TN)

COLLABORATORS include the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Kavli Institute, Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Northrop Grumman Space Systems, and the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute


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