Space Telescope That Will Study The Atmospheres Of Distant Worlds Given Green Light
Construction of a new space telescope that will help us better understand what lies outside our Solar System has been given the green light.
The Ariel – or ‘Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey’ – space telescope was formally approved by the European Space Agency (ESA) on Thursday following two years of feasibility studies, launching a new phase in our quest to explore distance worlds.
The multi-billion pound telescope will focus on exoplanets and the gases that surround them, with scientists hoping it will help them understand how these planets have formed and evolved over time. Studying these exoplanets could help us learn more about where our own Solar System fits within the wider picture of our galaxy.
Ariel, which is slated for launch in 2029, will be positioned some 1.5 million kilometres away from the Earth, where it will spend four years observing up to 1,000 of the faraway planets.
As planets rotate around their stars, information about the chemistry of their atmospheres becomes imprinted on starlight travelling to words us. Using spectroscopy, Ariel will be able extract this information and transmit it to planetary scientists back on Earth.
Professor Gunther Hasinger, the agency’s director of science, said as per BBC News:
Ariel will enable planetary science far beyond the boundaries of our own Solar System.
The adoption of Ariel cements ESA’s commitment to exoplanet research and will ensure European astronomers are at the forefront of this revolutionary field for the next decade and well beyond.
Ariel is one of three ESA exoplanet missions, the first of which launched in 2019. The telescope’s mission will be led by a team at University College London, with key stages of Ariel’s construction also set to be based in the UK.
With the temperature in space reaching as low as -230 degrees Celsius, the telescope will be made entirely of aluminium to reduce the chance of it becoming deformed in the cold temperatures.
The Ariel space telescope marks a challenging new project for the space agency, but its approval signals that it’s a challenge the ESA’s member states are more than ready to take on.
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