Mission: To discover exoplanets

Oct 25, 2012 by Uni Berne
In 2017, a satellite named CHEOPS will be placed into orbit with the task of observing planets orbiting in other solar systems. Developed by researchers at EPFL, the device is part of a Swiss space research project selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) and led by the University of Bern. Credit: EPFL

This small satellite of primarily Swiss design was chosen above twenty-five other projects. Named CHEOPS for "CHaracterizing ExOPlanet Satellite," the selection of this device was just announced by the European Space Agency (ESA). This satellite, which will be put in orbit in 2017, is the result of collaboration between the University of Bern and the University of Geneva, EPFL, and ETHZ. It will also receive technical support from institutes in Belgium, Great Britain, Italy, Austria, Sweden, and possibly other European countries that demonstrate interest. In terms of EPFL, the Swiss Space Center will work on the design of the device.

CHEOPS will be equipped with a telescope of a meter and a half in length that has a diameter of 30 centimeters. It will be placed into orbit at an altitude of 800 kilometers, on the frontier between day and night. From there, over the course of three years it will observe some 500 particularly bright stars and gather as much information as possible about their planets. To do this, it will use the method of detecting transits, in other words, diminishing brightness when the planet passes between its star and the earth. Although minute, these movements are detectible by sharp instruments such as the telescope from this Swiss project.

Gas or Telluric

For these measurements, researchers can calculate the diameter of planets that eclipse their stars. This complementary detection method, called radial velocity, measures their mass. In combining these two pieces of information, one can determine both the density of these objects and whether they are more likely gaseous, like Jupiter or Saturn, or telluric, like Mars or Earth. The first exoplanet, 51 Peg b, was discovered in 1995 by two astronomers of the of Geneva, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz. Since then, planets that are small and increasingly difficult to detect have been added to the discoveries.

Explore further: Toothpaste fluorine formed in stars

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cheops to study super-earths

Oct 22, 2012

(Phys.org)—Studying planets around other stars will be the focus of the new small Science Programme mission, Cheops, ESA announced today. Its launch is expected in 2017.   Cheops – for CHaracterising ExOPlanets ...

50 new exoplanets discovered by HARPS

Sep 12, 2011

Astronomers using ESO's world-leading exoplanet hunter HARPS have today announced a rich haul of more than 50 new exoplanets, including 16 super-Earths, one of which orbits at the edge of the habitable zone ...

COROT and the new chapter of planetary searches

Nov 14, 2006

The launch of COROT on 21 December 2006 is a long awaited event in the quest to find planets beyond our Solar System. Searching from above the Earth's atmosphere, COROT – the CNES project with ESA participation ...

First temperate exoplanet sized up (w/ Video)

Mar 17, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Combining observations from the CoRoT satellite and the ESO HARPS instrument, astronomers have discovered the first “normal” exoplanet that can be studied in great detail. Designated Corot-9b, ...

Increasing the odds of the sweep

Oct 04, 2006

Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have confirmed the extrasolar planet status of two of the 16 candidates discovered by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. One of the two confirmed exoplanets has ...

Recommended for you

Spectacular supernova's mysteries revealed

3 hours ago

(Phys.org) —New research by a team of UK and European-based astronomers is helping to solve the mystery of what caused a spectacular supernova in a galaxy 11 million light years away, seen earlier this ...

Supernova seen in two lights

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The destructive results of a mighty supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate blend of infrared and X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra ...

Toothpaste fluorine formed in stars

Aug 21, 2014

The fluorine that is found in products such as toothpaste was likely formed billions of years ago in now dead stars of the same type as our sun. This has been shown by astronomers at Lund University in Sweden, ...

Swirling electrons in the whirlpool galaxy

Aug 20, 2014

The whirlpool galaxy Messier 51 (M51) is seen from a distance of approximately 30 million light years. This galaxy appears almost face-on and displays a beautiful system of spiral arms.

User comments : 0