ESA’s Next Mission Aims To Explore Exoplanets

Posted: Mar 24 2018, 10:28am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 24 2018, 10:39am CDT, in Latest Science News


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ESA’s Next Mission Aims to Explore Exoplanets
Credit: ESA

ESA's Ariel mission is scheduled to launch in 2028

European Space Agency on Tuesday announced a new mission to study exoplanets. The mission named the Atmospheric Remote‐sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large‐survey mission or Ariel for short, will thoroughly investigate the nature of exoplanets and answer fundamental questions about how planets form and evolve around a star.

Ariel is part of ESA’s Cosmic Vision Plan and is expected to launch in mid-2028.

“Ariel is a logical next step in exoplanet science, allowing us to progress on key science questions regarding their formation and evolution, while also helping us to understand Earth’s place in the Universe.” Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science said in a statement.

Exoplanets are an interesting field of space science. Ever since the first exoplanets detected in the 1990s, it has become clear that there are many more planets orbiting around other stars and hundreds of billions of them are likely in our galaxy Milky Way alone.

Today, more than 3,500 exoplanets have been discovered with a huge range of masses, sizes, and orbits but apparently, there is no clear pattern linking them to the nature of their parent star. In other words, there is a gap in our knowledge of how and why a planet forms and evolves in a particular environment around a star and ESA’s Ariel mission is aiming to fill these voids.

During its 4-year long mission, Ariel will observe 1000 planets orbiting distant stars and provide the first large-scale survey of the composition of exoplanet’s atmosphere. The mission will carry a number of instruments including a meter-class mirror that collects visible and infrared light from distant planetary systems and a spectrometer that can extract fingerprints of gases in planet’s atmosphere. A photometer attached to Ariel can detect the presence of clouds in the atmosphere of exoplanets. Combined with other observations, Ariel can paint a much clearer picture of the nature of the exoplanets.

“Although we’ve now discovered around 3800 planets orbiting other stars, the nature of these exoplanets remains largely mysterious. ARIEL will study a statistically large sample of exoplanets to give us a truly representative picture of what these planets are like,” said ARIEL’s Principal Investigator, Professor Giovanna Tinetti. “This will enable us to answer questions about how the chemistry of a planet links to the environment in which it forms, and how its birth and evolution are affected by its parent star.”

Ariel is one of the four ESA’s medium-class science missions that are targeted to launch in next decade. For the fourth mission, three candidates were announced back in 2015 and Ariel had to beat THOR and XIPE, designed to study space plasma physics and X-ray emissions respectively.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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