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Ariel exoplanet mission from blueprint to reality



Hot exoplanets

In this artist’s impression of an exoplanet system, a hot planet passes in front of its parent star. Image source: ESA / ATG medialab

Those ones Exoplanet The Ariel mission, scheduled to be launched in 2029, has moved from the research phase to the implementation phase, after which industrial contractors will be selected to manufacture spacecraft.

Atmospheric remote sensing infrared exoplanet large-scale survey mission Ariel solves one of the key themes of ESA’s cosmic vision program: what are the conditions for planet formation and life appearing? Ariel will investigate the composition of exoplanets, how they form and how they evolve, by investigating the atmospheres of approximately 1,000 planets in both visible and infrared wavelength ranges.

This is the first mission dedicated to measuring the chemical composition and thermal structure of exoplanets and linking them to the host star environment. This will fill a major gap in our understanding of the physics and chemistry of the connection between planetary chemistry and the planet’s formation environment and whether the host star type drives planetary evolution.

Observations of these worlds will provide insights into the early stages of the formation of planets and atmospheres and their subsequent evolution, and in the process will also help us understand how our own solar system adapts to the larger extent of the universe.

Ariel was selected as the fourth intermediate science mission in the ESA Universe Vision Program in 2018. At the IAEA’s Scientific Planning Committee meeting on November 12, ESA “adopted” the standard, which paved the way for construction.

ESA Science Director Günther Hasinger said: “Ariel will make planetary science far beyond the scope of our own solar system.” At the forefront of this revolutionary field in time.”

Exoplanet mission schedule

Exoplanet mission schedule. The ground-based observatory first discovered exoplanets in the 1990s, which completely changed our view of the solar system and opened up new research fields that continue to this day. This infographic highlights the major space-based contributors in the field, including not only missions dedicated to exoplanets, but also sensitive missions to exoplanets in the past, present and future. Credit: ESA

Ariel will be the third dedicated exoplanet mission launched by ESA in ten years, each of which will deal with unique aspects of exoplanet science. Cheops is a feature of the ExOPlanet satellite, launched in December 2019, and has produced world-class science. The Plato (Planetary Transit and Oscillations of stars) mission will be launched in 2026 to find and study extrasolar planetary systems, with special emphasis on rocky planets around sun-like stars in habitable regions-distances from stars and liquids. Water can exist. On the surface of the planet. Ariel, scheduled to launch in 2029, will focus on warm and hot planets, from super-Earths to gas giants operating near their parent stars, and will use their fully mixed atmosphere to decrypt their overall composition.

In the next few months, industry will be required to bid for spacecraft hardware for Ariel. Around next summer, major industrial contractors will be selected to build it.

The mission’s payload module includes a one-meter cryogenic telescope and related scientific instruments, provided by the Ariel Mission Consortium. The alliance includes more than 50 research institutes from 17 European countries. NASA The payload is also increased.

ESA’s Ariel Research Manager Ludovic Puig said: “After a lot of time researching the preliminary design concept and integrating the required technology to prove the feasibility of the mission, we are ready to advance Ariel to the implementation stage.”

The telescope’s spectrometer will measure the chemical fingerprints of the planet passing before its “star” (ie, “star”) or after its “occultation”. These measurements will also enable astronomers to observe the dimming of stars by planets with an accuracy of 10-100 parts per million relative to stars.

Ariel will be able to detect signs of well-known components in the planet’s atmosphere, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane. It will also detect more foreign metal compounds to decipher the overall chemical environment of the distant solar system. For a certain number of planets, Ariel will also conduct in-depth investigations of their cloud systems and study seasonal and daily atmospheric changes.

ESA Ariel Research Scientist Göran Pilbratt said: “With Ariel, we will take these distant worlds (whether as individuals or importantly as populations) to a new level.”

ESA’s Ariel project scientist Theresa Lueftinger added: “Our chemical census of hundreds of solar systems will help us understand the chemical environment of the host environment and each planet that composes the star, thereby helping us better understand our cosmic neighbors. ”

ESA’s Ariel project manager Jean-Christophe Salvignol said: “We are very happy to enter the implementation phase of the Ariel mission.” “We are moving towards the best spacecraft design to answer basic questions about our position in the universe. “

Ariel plans to launch ESA’s new Ariane 6 rocket from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It will carry out a four-year mission to orbit from the second Sun Earth Lagrangian point L2, which is 1.5 million kilometers directly behind the Earth from the sun. The Comet Interceptor mission led by ESA will share the space journey.




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