ESA’s CHEOPS space telescope has made it: it’s in orbit and already hunting exoplanets

ESA’s CHEOPS space telescope, after a few weeks of tribulation, has managed to to move into orbit to hunt for planets that do not belong to the solar system. Let’s talk about the new space telescope of the European Space Agency called CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite) whose launch took place yesterday.

Located at an orbital point 710 kilometers away from the Earth’s surface, the telescope was launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket from a base located in French Guiana. It is an “exceptional moment in the history of European space and in the history of exoplanets”, as reported by Didier Queloz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2019 and discoverer of the first exoplanet in 1995 (51 Pegasi b), together with his colleague Michel Mayor.

The peculiarity of this telescope is that it will allow, compared to other space telescopes designed to detect exoplanets, an analysis with more detail. It will not yet be able to understand precisely and definitively if there could be life on an exoplanet but it will collect very important data in this sense to compose clues of a certain importance.

For example CHEOPS will allow to measure with a degree of precision never obtained before the dimensions of the exoplanets whose mass is already known, something that not even Kepler and TESS space telescopes can do. This will allow, among other things, to understand with greater precision whether you are facing a gaseous planet like Jupiter or a rocky one like Earth. A golden period in the coming years is expected, therefore, in terms of the amount of data and information on the search for exoplanets and perhaps even extraterrestrial life.

This is the “first step on a large scale”, as Guenther Hasinger, ESA’s scientific director, reports. In addition to the CHEOPS space telescope, the launcher also brought into orbit a second generation COSMO-SkyMed satellite from the Italian Space Agency, a nanosatellite from Tyvak, an Italian company, and two other small satellites from the French Space Agency.

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