#astronomy CHEOPS launched on follow-up exoplanet analysis mission – Astronomy Now

December 25, 2019 - Comment

Artist’s illustration of CHEOPS with its telescope door open. Picture: ESA/ATG medialab A Russian-built Soyuz rocket boosted the European House Company’s CHEOPS spacecraft into area 18 December, kicking off an bold exoplanet analysis mission. Designed to construct upon discoveries made by earlier pioneering exoplanet telescopes — like NASA’s Kepler mission — the ESA’s Characterising Exoplanet



Artist’s illustration of CHEOPS with its telescope door open. Picture: ESA/ATG medialab

A Russian-built Soyuz rocket boosted the European House Company’s CHEOPS spacecraft into area 18 December, kicking off an bold exoplanet analysis mission.

Designed to construct upon discoveries made by earlier pioneering exoplanet telescopes — like NASA’s Kepler mission — the ESA’s Characterising Exoplanet Satellite tv for pc, or CHEOPS, mission was injected into orbit some 700 kilometres 435 miles) above Earth.

“We’re extraordinarily relieved,” stated Günther Hasinger, ESA’s director of science. “CHEOPS is working. All programs are inexperienced. telemetry is secure, temperatures are positive, energy voltages are positive, so every little thing is sweet to go.”

CHEOPS will probably be able to registering tiny modifications within the brightness of stars as planets block their mild from reaching the telescope. This fashion of observing exoplanets known as the transit technique, and it’s been utilized by Kepler, NASA’s TESS observatory and the French area company’s CoRoT mission to find planets round different stars.

Astronomers designed CHEOPS to comply with up on discoveries made by different telescopes.

“What makes CHEOPS fairly particular to all the opposite transit missions up to now is that CHEOPS shouldn’t be actually a discovery mission,” stated Willy Benz, the mission’s principal investigator from the College of Bern in Switzerland. “It’s a follow-up. We will probably be taking a look at one system at a time, and never making an attempt to find hundreds of others.”

“The concept is that we all know now a number of hundreds of those exoplanets,” Benz stated. “We’re extra slowly towards characterising them with precision, realizing what they’re product of and their temperature, and so forth and so forth.”

Astronomers can decide the mass of an exoplanet by way of a way referred to as the radial velocity technique, during which telescopes can detect the wobble of a star attributable to the pull of gravity from a smaller planetary companion. The amplitude of the wobble can inform scientists concerning the planet’s mass.

Combining the dimensions info from CHEOPS with mass estimates obtained by way of different telescopes can yield important insights into exoplanets, Benz stated.

“By measuring the radius and by realizing the mass by way of radial velocity, we will place these totally different planets and take a look at to determine what they’re product of, whether or not they’re rocky planets, whether or not they’re a gasoline ball, an icy world, or the like,” he stated. “You should have fairly small error bars if you wish to say something significant about this, and that is why we’d like precision measurements.”

Artist’s illustration of the CHEOPS spacecraft observing an exoplanet transiting in entrance of its guardian star. Credit score: ESA/ATG medialab

Didier Queloz, a Swiss astronomer on the College of Cambridge, received the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics with Michel Mayor for his or her work in discovering the primary exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star in 1995.

Queloz is chair of the CHEOPS science workforce. “We began this challenge greater than 10 years in the past, and now we’re within the sky,” he stated.

“The sector has simply exploded,” he stated after launch. “There are simply hundreds of exoplanets. There are quite a lot of planets identified to be transiting, which implies the planet goes proper in entrance of the star, and that’s the approach that we’re utilizing for the CHEOPS mission.

“We’ve so many planets, so totally different,” Queloz stated. “We’ve these super-Earths, mini-Neptunes. We don’t actually perceive all these programs. In order that’s the aim of CHEOPS, offering new information, very exact information, to grasp a bit higher.”

CHEOPS can assist establish prime targets for added observations by future missions, such because the James Webb House Telescope scheduled for launch in 2021.

“We need to have a look at atmospheres, following planets of their orbits across the star, we could need to see if a planet has moons, rings, and so forth, and we need to present the very best targets for the very giant amenities below building or going into orbit like JWST,” Benz stated.

David Ehrenreich, mission scientist for the CHEOPS consortium on the College of Geneva, stated future giant telescopes likes JWST and the Extraordinarily Massive Telescope in Chile will probably be below excessive demand.

“We predict that within the coming years there will probably be far too many very fascinating small planets to characterise with highly effective amenities than observing time out there on these over-booked amenities,” Ehrenreich stated. “So it can grow to be extraordinarily vital to down-select the golden goal — the easiest of those targets — so we may go and spend quite a lot of time with Hubble, with James Webb, and with the ELT on the bottom.

“CHEOPS goes to be a key on this course of by confirming and acquiring step one characterisation of those many targets, and figuring out which one we should always search for,” Ehrenreich stated.



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