KOUROU, FRENCH GUIANA – Citing a software error, The European Space Agency has delayed the launch of the CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite (CHEOPS) until Wednesday at the earliest. The Launch of CHEOPS will bring more tools to space in the hunt for exoplanets.
The satellite will launch as a secondary payload aboard a Soyuz-Fregat rocket operated by Arianespace, ESA’s launch provision arm. The rocket was produced by Roscosmos, as part of a Russian-European space alliance. The satellite was built by Airbus, a French aerospace company.
So what will CHEOPS do?
CHEOPS is an exciting addition to the hunt for exoplanets, as it is not designed to hunt for exoplanets, but is designed to characterize those exoplanets that have already been discovered by missions such as Kepler and Gaia. By taking a longer look at these planets discovered using the observation of the gravitational “wobble” which planets cause in their stars. CHEOPS will combine this wobble-data, which can provide the mass of the planets, with new “dimming” observations. Dimming is observed when planets pass between their star and the CHEOPS satellite. With the combined data, ESA scientists can discover more about exoplanets which are already known.
The growing field of exoplanetary research has proven to be quite exciting. Reports of newly discovered exoplanets, mainly from the Kepler space telescope, make national news with halting regularity. These articles, fantastical as they are, do increase visibility of new scientific techniques within the astronomical community. This throws into a stark light the fact that humans are interested in the unknown at a very deep level, and that exploration is something that is a major part of human DNA. With Earth having been thoroughly explored, with some parts of the seafloor being the exception, the new frontier lies beyond the bounds of our home planet.