The European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Tuesday its plans for Ariel exoplanet space mission launch and as per the timeline, the new mission will launch in 2028.
The Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (Ariel) mission will be aimed at studying the atmospheres of planets beyond the solar system. The mission will spend four years in the space observing thousands of exoplanets orbiting distant stars. While NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, as well as some other space spacecraft, have already discovered thousands of exoplanet candidates, it’s not possible for astronomers to find out more information about them beyond their size, mass, and orbit.
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.
The telescope will use infrared spectroscopy to probe a planet’s atmosphere. 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.”