The European Space Agency (ESA) has revealed its intentions of launching a exoplanet hunting mission in 2028.
The mission is named Ariel – short for Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey. According to ESA, the Ariel mission will study the atmospheres of planets beyond the solar system reveals The Space News.
Ariel is said to have a life of four years in space during which it will observe thousands of exoplanets orbiting distant stars. The Ariel telescope has been developed by a consortium of more than 60 institutes from 15 ESA member states. It will be launched on ESA’s new Ariane 6 rocket from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou.
One of the major differences between Ariel and the Kepler mission is that the Kepler Space Telescope is only capable of detect presence of an exoplanet, but it can’t reveal information about the atmosphere of the exoplanet.
Ariel on the other hand is capable of probing an exoplanet’s atmosphere using infrared spectroscopy. It will be able to measure the abundance of chemicals at a precision level of 10-100 parts per million relative to the star.
Furthermore, the telescope will also be capable of detecting possible signs of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and other metallic compounds on warm and hot planets ranging from super-Earths to gas giants orbiting close to their parent stars. The space agency has announced that Ariel will be its next medium-class science mission.
According to professor Tinetti, Ariel will help in addressing fundamental questions like what exoplanets are made up of and how planetary systems form and evolve. Such observations will give insights into the early stages of planetary and atmospheric formation, and their subsequent evolution.
“Ariel is a logical next step in exoplanet science,” said Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science. “[It’ll allow] us to progress on key science questions regarding their formation and evolution, while also helping us to understand Earth’s place in the universe.”