TESS GI Program Frequently Asked Questions

Image Credit: NASA

Mission status

What is TESS?

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a NASA-sponsored Astrophysics Explorer-class mission that is performing a 2-year all-sky survey to search for planets transiting nearby stars. The primary goal of TESS is to discover planets smaller than Neptune that transit stars bright enough to enable follow-up spectroscopic observations that can provide planet masses and atmospheric compositions. More information can be found here.

Where is TESS pointing now?

The current status of the TESS spacecraft can be found at the MIT website.

Can I use TESS for my own science?

Yes! TESS data are made publicly available at the MAST for anyone to use. There is no proprietary period on TESS data.

You can also propose to use archival data or to perform other TESS-related investigations via the following solicitations:

  • Investigations dominated by theoretical effort should respond to the Appendix D.4 Astrophysics Theory Program (ATP) solicitation, or Appendix E.3 the Exoplanet Research Program (XRP).
  • Investigations dominated by archival data analysis effort should respond to the Appendix D.2 Astrophysics Data Archive Program (ADAP) solicitation.
  • Investigations dominated by ground-based data collection and/or analysis efforts should respond to the Appendix E.3 the Exoplanet Research Program (XRP), or the NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Grants Program (AAG).

More information can be found here.

Will TESS have an extended mission?

TESS has a 2-year primary mission, where it is currently observing the southern ecliptic hemisphere in its first year of operations and will observe the northern ecliptic hemisphere in its second year of operations. The TESS team submitted a proposal requesting funding for an extended mission for TESS, to the 2019 NASA Senior Review of Operating Astrophysics Missions Call for Proposals. An announcement regarding the proposed extended mission was made in July 2019, extending TESS until 2022.

Where will TESS point in its extended mission?

The observing strategy for an extended mission is still being finalized and will be announced in the future once the team knows whether an extended mission for TESS will be funded.

Will there be opportunities for Guest Investigators to propose for short-cadence target observations and/or funding in the extended mission?

If TESS is funded for an extended mission, we anticipate the continuation of a GI program where the community can submit proposals for short-cadence target observations and/or funding.

Proposing short-cadence targets

How many TESS 2-minute target slots will be available to TESS Guest Investigators?

At least 20,000 targets will be available to the GI program during the course of the 2-year baseline mission. This number may be higher depending on the demand.

Are there any restrictions on the types of targets that can be proposed through the TESS GI Program?

Proposals to detect planet transits within the 2-minute cadence data of the 100,000 top-prioritized CTL targets in either the southern or northern hemisphere are not solicited, and will be considered non-compliant. No restrictions are imposed on science using the full frame image data. Proposals for exoplanet detection and characterization using full frame image data are encouraged.

What version of the CTL should be checked before submitting a proposal?

The latest version of the CTL can be found at MAST. The CTL has a column called priority, which is what we use to evaluate what is in the top 100,000 targets in a given ecliptic hemisphere.

Where can I find the list of the 100,000 top-prioritized targets? You can search the CTL at MAST for targets below ecliptic latitude of -6.0 and sort by priority. For GI Cycle 1, we made a csv file available that contains the list of the top 100,000 priority targets in the southern ecliptic hemisphere. For GI Cycle 2, we made a csv file available that contains the top 100,000 priority targets in the northern ecliptic hemisphere.

I have heard that the CTL contains "special lists" of targets. What does that mean, and can my GI proposal include targets that are in those lists?

All targets in the CTL are included in the full TIC, from which the CTL is drawn. The CTL includes additional observed or calculated stellar properties relevant for transit detection, such as stellar radius. The methods employed to determine these stellar properties are designed for typical main sequence and subgiant stars of type F to M, and might not work reliably for certain other kinds of stars (e.g., white dwarfs). Therefore, the TESS Science Office has assembled "specially curated lists" of specific stars of interest for planet detection, in which the stellar parameters were determined using alternate methods than those used for the bulk of the CTL. More information is available in the first TIC paper. There are no additional restrictions placed on these targets above beyond what is described in the proposal call.

What if I can do my science with TESS full frame images, and don't need to propose for short-cadence targets?

Such proposals may request funding only, and will be allowed under the TESS GI Program.

What if I have an interesting and timely target that needs to be observed quickly and in short-cadence?

Target of opportunity proposals are solicited for rapidly evolving phenomena whose occurrence is not predictable at the time of the GI proposal deadline. These proposals would commence after the spacecraft upload following the trigger event, which could be as long as 2 months after the event. The impact to science of such a potential delay must be addressed in proposals requesting ToO observations. These proposals may be submitted during the regular cycle and are eligible for funding.

Additionally, a fraction of the GI targets will be reserved for rapid turn-around, Director's Discretionary Time (DDT). If your target can't wait for the next GI proposal cycle, then DDT is the route for you.

Funding opportunities

Will funds be available to support GI proposers?

Yes. TESS Guest Investigators at US Institutions may apply for funding to support their TESS Investigations. There are two levels of funding: small programs and large programs. We anticipate that a small program award will be around $50,000 and a typical large program award will be around $200,000.

Will proposals asking for FFI-only data be funded?

Yes! More information can be found here.

Data availability

When will TESS data be available from a given sector?

The approximate date of data availability for a given sector can be found on our mission status page.

Will there be any proprietary time period for GI targets?

No. All GI data will become immediately public when it arrives in the TESS archive at MAST.

Is there a standard acknowledgement to use when publishing TESS data?

This paper includes data collected by the TESS mission, which are publicly available from the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST). Funding for the TESS mission is provided by NASA's Science Mission directorate.

Data processing

How will TESS GI targets be processed?

TESS data processing takes place at the Science Processing Operation Center (SPOC), designed and operated at NASA Ames Research Center. The SPOC developed the image processing and transit photometry software, leveraging the Kepler Mission's Science Operations Center (SOC) pipeline software. More information on the Kepler software can be found here. Additional information on the science data processing can be found here.

Data analysis

What tools are available to help me prepare my GI proposal?

The GI Program Office has made several tools available to assist proposers in developing their observing programs. These proposal tools can be found here.

What tools exist to help me analyze TESS data?

There are a number of tools available for data analysis, developed both by the GI Program Office and by the community. These analysis tools can be found here.

I see an interesting feature in my TESS light curve. What could it be?

Some common sources of anomalous light curves features include the target star being on a bad CCD column or scattered light from the Earth and/or Moon. It is recommended that Full-Frame Images taken at the same time as the anomalous feature be checked to verify whether or not the interesting feature seen is astrophysical in nature.


How can I get media coverage for my awesome new science result from TESS?

You can request support for your exciting new science result from NASA Goddard's Astrophysics Divisions Communications Team by following the instructions on this webpage. People are encouraged to submit requests for media support 6 weeks before the paper is expected to be published by a journal.

Where can I send my suggestion for an idea I'd like to see incorporated into the TESS GI Program, or a software tool I'd like to suggest be developed?

We love feedback! Please contact our helpdesk with any suggestions or questions.