CHEOPS: New Small Satellite will Study SuperEarths

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CHEOPS: New Small Satellite will Study SuperEarths

Post by bystander » Sat Oct 27, 2012 6:04 pm

New Small Satellite will Study SuperEarths
ESA Science & Technology | CHEOPS | 2012 Oct 19
Studying planets around other stars will be the focus of the new small Science Programme mission, Cheops, ESA announced today. Its launch is expected in 2017.

CHEOPS - for CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite - will target nearby, bright stars already known to have planets orbiting around them.

Through high-precision monitoring of the star's brightness, scientists will search for the telltale signs of a 'transit' as a planet passes briefly across its face.

In turn, this will allow an accurate measurement of the radius of the planet. For those planets with a known mass, the density will be revealed, providing an indication of the internal structure.

These key parameters will help scientists to understand the formation of planets from a few times the mass of the Earth - 'super-Earths' - up to Neptune-sized worlds.

It will also identify planets with significant atmospheres and constrain the migration of planets during the formation and evolution of their parent systems.

Cheops is the first of a possible new class of small missions to be developed as part of ESA's Science Programme.

"By concentrating on specific known exoplanet host stars, Cheops will enable scientists to conduct comparative studies of planets down to the mass of Earth with a precision that simply cannot be achieved from the ground," said Professor Alvaro Giménez-Cañete, ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.

"The mission was selected from 26 proposals submitted in response to the Call for Small Missions in March, highlighting the strong interest of the scientific community in dedicated, quick-turnaround missions focusing on key open issues in space science."

Possible future small missions in the Science Programme should be low cost and rapidly developed, in order to offer greater flexibility in response to new ideas from the scientific community.

With a dedicated science focus, they would provide a natural complement to the broader Medium- and Large-class missions of ESA's Science Programme.

Cheops will be implemented as a partnership between ESA and Switzerland, with a number of other ESA Member States delivering substantial contributions.

"This continues the 40-year success story of Swiss scientists and industry at the forefront of space science," said Professor Willy Benz, Center for Space and Habitability at the University of Bern.

The mission will also provide unique targets for more detailed studies of exoplanet atmospheres by the next generation of telescopes now being built, such as the ground-based European Extremely Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.

Cheops will operate in a Sun-synchronous low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 800 km. It has a planned mission lifetime of 3.5 years and part of the observing time will be open to the wider scientific community.

Cheops – A Little Satellite with Big Ideas
Universe Today | Jenny Winder | 2012 Oct 23
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Bern: Construction of Space Telescope CHEOPS Is Finished

Post by bystander » Fri Apr 06, 2018 4:45 pm

Space telescope CHEOPS leaves the University of Bern
University of Bern | 2018 Apr 05

Construction of the space telescope CHEOPS is finished. The engineers from the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern will package the instrument this week and send it to Madrid, where it will be integrated on the satellite platform. CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) is to be ready to launch in early 2019. It will observe how exoplanets in other solar systems pass in front of their host star – and assist in the search of potentially habitable planets.

The specially designed transport case is ready and waiting in the building for Exact Sciences of the University of Bern. In the next few days, the CHEOPS team will load the space telescope in the cleanroom into the transport container, where it is well protected against shock, moisture and dirt. A truck will then transport the precious cargo to Madrid. The company "Airbus Defense and Space - Spain" built the satellite platform that supports the telescope and enables it to operate in space. In the upcoming weeks the instrument will be integrated and the satellite will be tested.

The space telescope will observe stars in our cosmic neighbourhood that are known to be orbited by exoplanets. CHEOPS measures the brightness of the stars. This decreases slightly when an exoplanet passes in front of its host star. The size of the exoplanet can be determined by the decrease in brightness during such a transit. “The instrument must be able to measure with extreme precision. This was the major design challenge," says Willy Benz, professor of Astrophysics at the University of Bern and Principal Investigator of the CHEOPS mission, which Switzerland is carrying out together with the European Space Agency (ESA). “We think that we meet the requirements, otherwise we would not be flying," says Christopher Broeg, project manager for the CHEOPS mission. ...
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DLR: CHEOPS Space Telescope to Investigate Extrasolar Planets

Post by bystander » Tue Dec 17, 2019 12:35 am

CHEOPS Space Telescope to Investigate Extrasolar Planets
German Aerospace Center (DLR) | 2019 Dec 16
On 17 December 2019 at 05:54 local time (09:54 CET), the European Space Agency (ESA) CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS) space telescope is scheduled to lift off from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on board a Soyuz launcher. The mission will further extend the search for exoplanets, which was one of the topics of this year's Nobel Prize in physics. Didier Queloz, one of the Nobel Prize winners, is Chair of the CHEOPS Science Team. With the participation of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), CHEOPS will determine the radii and densities of a large number of exoplanets and investigate which of them might have an atmosphere. In addition to providing on-board hardware, DLR will contribute its extensive expertise in data analysis. The space telescope will examine exoplanets from a Sun-synchronous Earth orbit at an altitude of 700 kilometres.

"More than 4000 exoplanets have been discovered in the Milky Way, yet we still know far too little about these distant worlds in our cosmic neighbourhood," says Heike Rauer, Director of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin. "We are all eager to see which 'faces' the planets characterised by CHEOPS will show us."

he new space telescope will study several hundred bright stars where orbiting planets have already been discovered by other surveys and missions. These include the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) telescope system in Chile and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) all-sky survey mission. CHEOPS will measure the very small dips in apparent brightness that occur when a planet crosses its host star's disc, referred to as a 'transit'. "We could describe this fluctuation in brightness as a 'mini stellar eclipse', as the transiting exoplanet reduces the intensity of the light from the star for a short time," explains Juan Cabrera Perez, Head of the Extrasolar Planets and Atmospheres Department at the DLR Institute of Planetary Research. “This fluctuation can be measured and analysed – an area in which we can contribute suitable tools and many years of experience.”

The mission will focus on stars orbited by planets with sizes ranging between those of Earth and Neptune – in other words, planets with diameters of approximately 10,000 to 50,000 kilometres. The scientists can use their measurements of the transit light curve to determine the size of the planet passing in front of the star. These data, together with information about the masses of the planets already obtained using other observation techniques, will allow scientists to determine their density – one of the most important criteria for characterising an unknown planet. For the first time, it will be possible to understand these extrasolar worlds more precisely. A planet’s density provides important clues about its composition and structure – whether it primarily consists of rock, with a metal inner core, for instance, or whether the planet might even be home to vast oceans, or if it mainly gaseous.

In addition, CHEOPS will observe the planets both during transit and in orbit to the side of the star and illuminated by it, very similar to the situation when Earth's inner neighbouring planet Venus can be observed to the side of the Sun. The measured light curves will enable the scientists to reach conclusions about the existence of an atmosphere and, if possible, even find out whether the planet has clouds.
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ESA: Liftoff for CHEOPS, Europe's Exoplanet Mission

Post by bystander » Thu Dec 19, 2019 8:27 pm

Liftoff for CHEOPS, Europe's Exoplanet Mission
ESA | Space Science | Science & Technology | CHEOPS | 2019 Dec 18
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Soyuz ST-A launches CSG-1, CHEOPS, OPS-SAT, EyeSat & ANGELS ~ Credit: Arianespace
ESA's CHEOPS mission lifted off on a Soyuz-Fregat launcher from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 09:54:20 CET on 18 December on its exciting mission to characterise planets orbiting stars other than the Sun.

Signals from the spacecraft, received at the mission control centre based at INTA in Torrejón de Ardoz near Madrid, Spain, via the Troll ground tracking station at approximately 12:43 CET confirmed that the launch was successful.

CHEOPS, the Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, is a partnership between ESA and Switzerland, with important contribution from 10 other ESA Member States. ESA's first mission dedicated to extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, it will investigate known planets beyond our Solar System and provide key insight into the nature of these distant, alien worlds. ...
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Bern: CHEOPS Space Telescope Takes Its First Picturesths

Post by bystander » Fri Feb 07, 2020 11:55 pm

CHEOPS Space Telescope Takes Its First Pictures
University of Bern, Switzerland | 2020 Feb 07

Next milestone in the commissioning of CHEOPS: After the successful opening of the space telescope cover on January 29, 2020, CHEOPS has now taken its first images of the sky.

First image of HD 70843, the star chosen as target for CHEOPS after cover opening. The star, at the centre of the image, is located at a distance of 150 light-years from us, in the constellation of Cancer. The image is about 1000x1000 pixels in size, with each pixel representing a tiny angle of about 0.0003 degree (1 arcsecond) on the sky. The other, fainter stars in the image are in the background of the target. The inset in the lower right corner shows a region of about 100-pixels in width, centered on the target star. The peculiar shape of the star in the image is due to the deliberate defocusing of CHEOPS optics. CHEOPS measures the star’s brightness by adding up the light received in all pixels within a region centered on the star as illustrated by the circle in the picture. The defocusing spreads the light onto many pixels, which allows CHEOPS to reach best possible photometric precision. Credit: ESA/Airbus/CHEOPS Mission Consortium

The tension was high: In front of a large screen at the house near Madrid where members of the Consortium participating in the commissioning of the satellite live, as well as at the other institutes involved in CHEOPS, the team waited for the first images from the space telescope. "The first images that were about to appear on the screen were crucial for us to be able to determine if the telescope's optics had survived the rocket launch in good shape," explains Willy Benz, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Bern and Principal Investigator of the CHEOPS mission. "When the first images of a field of stars appeared on the screen, it was immediately clear to everyone that we did indeed have a working telescope," says Benz happily. Now the remaining question is how well it is working.

Preliminary analysis has shown that the images from CHEOPS are even better than expected. However, better for CHEOPS does not mean sharper as the telescope has been deliberately defocused. This is because spreading the light over many pixels ensures that the spacecraft’s jitter and the pixel-to-pixel variations are smoothed out, allowing for better photometric precision. "The good news is that the actual blurred images received are smoother and more symmetrical than what we expected from measurements performed in the laboratory," says Benz. High precision is necessary for CHEOPS to observe small changes in the brightness of stars outside our solar system caused by the transit of an exoplanet in front of the star. Since these changes in brightness are proportional to the surface of the transit planet, CHEOPS will be able to measure the size of the planets. "These initial promising analyses are a great relief and also a boost for the team," continues Benz.

How well CHEOPS is working will be tested further over the next two months. "We will analyze many more images in detail to determine the exact level of accuracy that can be achieved by CHEOPS in the different aspects of the science program," says David Ehrenreich, CHEOPS project scientist at the University of Geneva. "The results so far bode well," said Ehrenreich.

A perfect blur – First image by exoplanet watcher Cheops
ESA | Space Science | Cheops | 2020 Feb 07
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk.
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