From The University of Bern [Universität Bern] (CH) and The University of Geneva [Université de Genève] (CH) : “Two-year launch anniversary of CHEOPS”

From The University of Bern [Universität Bern] (CH)


The University of Geneva [Université de Genève] (CH)


Prof. Dr. Willy Benz
Physics Institute, Space Research and Planetology (WP), University of Bern
Phone +41 79 964 92 16

Prof. Dr. David Ehrenreich
Département d’Astronomie and NCCR PlanetS, The University of Geneva [Université de Genève](CH)
Phone +41 22 379 2390

European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/CHEOPS

After two years in orbit, the CHEOPS space telescope has exceeded expectations. By reliably revealing details of some of the most fascinating exoplanets, it has quickly become a key instrument for astronomers in Europe and has led to fruitful collaborations throughout the continent. CHEOPS is a joint mission by The European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) and Switzerland, under the aegis of The University of Bern [Universität Bern](CH) in collaboration with The University of Geneva [Université de Genève](CH).

Since its launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, on December 18 2019, the CHEOPS telescope in Earth’s orbit has demonstrated its functionality and precision beyond expectations. That it would ever to get to that point was never a certainty and would have almost been impossible due to the Corona virus pandemic.

A key part of European astronomy

“We were very lucky that things went so smoothly. After years of preparation, construction and testing, it is amazing to think that if the launch had been delayed only two more weeks, things could have gone very differently”, Willy Benz, Professor of astrophysics at the University of Bern and head of the CHEOPS consortium, recalls. Due to the pandemic, access to the operation centre was very limited. Luckily, just shortly before large parts of Europe went into shutdown, all the necessary checks were completed and the telescope could run in an automated operation mode. This allowed the scientists working with CHEOPS to operate the instrument remotely and thus gather all the observational data they needed to do their research – and they did so quite diligently.

Thus far, nearly 100 scientists, coming from 40 institutions all over the continent, have thus far had the chance to benefit from the unique capabilities of CHEOPS. This has led to impactful research published in nearly 30 scientific papers. Findings include the characterization of blisteringly hot planet atmospheres that evaporate iron, the detection of planetary systems that orbit their star in near perfect harmony or the measurement of the structure of icy super-Earths. “CHEOPS has demonstrated its flexibility, reliability and high precision on many occasions – for example by revealing details of planets and planetary systems that remained hidden from other instruments, like NASA’s Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite (TESS)”, mission scientist David Ehrenreich, who is also a Professor of astronomy at the University of Geneva says.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology(US) TESS – Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite replaced the Kepler Space Telescope in search for exoplanets. TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US), and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (US).

A valuable asset for the future

The capabilities CHEOPS could continue to serve the scientific community well, even with the launch of the next generation of instruments – such as the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) of NASA.

National Aeronautics Space Agency(USA)/European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/ Canadian Space Agency [Agence Spatiale Canadienne](CA) Webb Infrared Space Telescope(US) James Webb Space Telescope annotated. Scheduled for launch in October 2021 delayed to December 2021.

“We are convinced with its high precision and flexibility, CHEOPS can act as a bridge between instruments like TESS and the JWST, as the JWST needs precise information on potentially interesting observation targets. While TESS can detect many targets, CHEOPS can help to filter out the most promising ones and thus optimize the operation of the 10 billion $ instrument that is the JWST”, Willy Benz points out.

“We also hope that scientific advances will allow us to extend the research foci of CHEOPS to study the atmospheric circulations and clouds on exoplanets or to detect the first moon around an exoplanet”, David Ehrenreich adds. Whether these goals will be attainable will also depend on the decision of ESA to extend the operation period of CHEOPS, which is scheduled to end next autumn, to 2025. In any case: an exciting year lies ahead for the “Swiss” telescope in space.

See the full article here .


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The The University of Geneva [Université de Genève] (CH) is a public research university located in Geneva, Switzerland.

It was founded in 1559 by John Calvin as a theological seminary and law school. It remained focused on theology until the 17th century, when it became a center for Enlightenment scholarship. In 1873, it dropped its religious affiliations and became officially secular. Today, the university is the third largest university in Switzerland by number of students. In 2009, the University of Geneva celebrated the 450th anniversary of its founding. Almost 40% of the students come from foreign countries.

The university holds and actively pursues teaching, research, and community service as its primary objectives. In 2016, it was ranked 53rd worldwide by the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities, 89th by the QS World University Rankings, and 131st in the TIMES Higher Education World University Ranking.

UNIGE is a member of the League of European Research Universities (EU) (including academic institutions such as University of Amsterdam [Universiteit van Amsterdam] (NL), University of Cambridge (UK), Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, [Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg] (DE), University of Helsinki [ Helsingin yliopisto; Helsingfors universitet] (FI) and University of Milan [Università degli Studi di Milano Statale] (IT)) the Coimbra Group (EU) and the European University Association (EU).

The University is composed of nine faculties:
Faculty of Sciences
Faculty of Medicine
Faculty of Humanities
Faculty Geneva School of Economics and Management (GSEM)
Faculty Geneva School of Social Sciences (G3S)
Faculty of Law (Geneva Law School)
Faculty of Theology
Faculty of Psychology and School of Education
Faculty of Translation and Interpreting
Interfaculty centers
The university is composed of fourteen interfacultary centers. Amongst others:
Institute for Reformation History (the Reformation)
Computer Science Department (computer science)
Institute for Environmental Sciences (energy policy)
The Global Studies Institute
Interfaculty Center of Gerontology (gerontology)
Swiss Center for Affective Sciences (affective science)
Associated institutions
The university has also several partnerships with the nearby institutions, where students at the university may take courses.
Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID)
Bossey Ecumenical Institute (of the World Council of Churches)
Wyss Center for Bio- and Neuro-engineering
Swiss National Supercomputing Centre
Art-Law Centre
Center for Biomedical Imaging(CIBM)
University Centre of Legal Medicine (CURML)
The Institute for Work and Health (IST)

The University of Bern [Universität Bern] (CH) is a university in the Swiss capital of Bern and was founded in 1834. It is regulated and financed by the Canton of Bern. It is a comprehensive university offering a broad choice of courses and programs in eight faculties and some 150 institutes. With around 17,512 students, Universität Bern is the third biggest University in Switzerland.

Universität Bern operates at three levels: university, faculties and institutes. Other organizational units include interfaculty and general university units. The university’s highest governing body is the Senate, which is responsible for issuing statutes, rules and regulations. Directly answerable to the Senate is the University Board of Directors, the governing body for university management and coordination. The Board comprises the Rector, the Vice-Rectors and the Administrative Director. The structures and functions of the University Board of Directors and the other organizational units are regulated by the Universities Act. Universität Bern offers about 39 bachelor and 72 master programs, with enrollments of 7,747 and 4,523, respectively. The university also has 2,776 doctoral students. Around 1,561 bachelor, 1,489 master’s degree students and 570 PhD students graduate each year. For some time now, the university has had more female than male students; at the end of 2016, women accounted for 56% of students.

Today the University of Bern is one of the top 150 universities in the world. In the QS World University Rankings 2019 it ranked 139th. The Shanghai Ranking (ARWU) 2018 ranked the University of Bern in the range 101st–150th in the world. In the Leiden Ranking 2015 it ranked 122nd in the world and 50th in Europe. In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings it ranked 110th in 2018/2019 and 2016/2017 (and 82nd in Clinical, pre-clinical & health 2017).