The European Space Agency (ESA) is preparing to launch three space telescopes for the observation of exoplanets, named Cheops, Plato, and Ariel.
The European Space Agency Europe (ESA) has finally understood the challenge of the exoplanets research and now finances missions dedicated to that. ESA has started working at the Cheops, Plato, and Ariel missions, three space telescopes to study exoplanets that will hopefully leave Earth in 2018, 2026 and 2028, respectively.
Cheops (Characterising Exoplanet Satellite)
Cheops is a small, simple, and inexpensive mission, which will cost ESA only about 50 million Euros (roughly about $62 million). The mission will be launched by a Soyuz rocket from Kourou before the end of this year.
This satellite, somehow small in size and weighing only 250 kg will carry a telescope of only 30 centimeters in diameter and a small CCD camera and that’s it.
However, in the perfect observational conditions of the outer space, Cheops will ‘see’, for more than 3 years, thousands of stars around which have already been found exoplanets.
ESA’s Cheops will capture the transitory exoplanets and will precisely determine the orbital characteristics and the diameter of those planets.
Plato (Planetary Transits and Oscillations)
Plato will be ten more expensive, ten times larger, and also more complex and more ambitious than Cheops.
Costing nearly 500 million Euros (roughly about $618 million), this 2-ton satellite will carry a battery of 26 telephoto lenses installed in parallel whose objective will be the same of the Cheops’ but on a larger scale and for at least five years.
Even more, Plato will scan over 2,000 sq degrees of the sky, which means huge, and will discover, observe, and characterize between 5,000 and 10,000 exoplanets, with unprecedented precision.
Ariel (Atmospheric Remote Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large Survey Mission)
In short, ESA will launch Ariel in mid-2028 aboard an Ariane 6 rocket.
Ariel, a 500 million Euros ($618 million) space telescope, will observe more than 1,000 exoplanets already discovered. Its mission will be to analyze the atmosphere of those exoplanets, a decisive scientific advance, especially towards finding exoplanets similar to Earth which may also hold life.
In conclusion, the European Space Agency (ESA) will add 3 space telescopes for studying exoplanets (Cheops, Plato, and Ariel) to the exoplanets “race”, where it will directly “compete” with NASA. Evidently, such a “race” will only benefit science and humanity.