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  • richardmitnick 11:29 am on March 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA Ariel mission and spacecraft, The formation and evolution of exoplanets,   

    From University of Oxford: “ARIEL mission to better understand exoplanet evolution gets green light” 

    U Oxford bloc

    University of Oxford

    20 Mar 2018

    Oxford University to play a key role in ARIEL, a new research mission to better understand the formation and evolution of exoplanets.

    ESA Ariel spacecraft

    The project was chosen by the European Space Agency (ESA) from three academic proposals, with the final selection announced today, 20 March 2018.

    The ARIEL mission is intended to answer fundamental questions about how planetary systems develop over time. Over the course of four years, the ARIEL spacecraft, will observe 1000 planets orbiting distant stars and marks the first large-scale survey of the chemistry of exoplanet atmospheres.

    The instrument will have a meter-class mirror which will collect visible and infrared light from distant star systems. A spectrometer will spread this light into a ‘rainbow’ and extract the chemical fingerprints of gases in the planets’ atmospheres. A photometer and guidance system will then capture information on the presence on clouds in the atmospheres of the exoplanets and will allow the spacecraft to point to the target star with high stability and precision.

    The ARIEL mission has been developed by a consortium of more than 60 institutes from 15 ESA member state countries, including UK, France, Italy, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Hungary, Sweden, Czech Republic, Germany, Portugal, with an additional contribution from NASA in the USA currently under study. UK institutions have provided the leadership and planning for ARIEL, including UCL, STFC RAL Space, STFC UK ATC, Cardiff University and the University of Oxford.

    Scientists from Oxford’s Department of Physics will support the optical performance testing of the instrument alongside RAL Space. The team also have a strong interest in the atmospheric science data that the mission will generate, and will channel that into future projects.

    ARIEL’s Principal Investigator, Professor Giovanna Tinetti of UCL said: “Although we’ve now discovered around 3800 planets orbiting other stars, the nature of these exoplanets remains largely mysterious. ARIEL will study a statistically large sample of exoplanets to give us a truly representative picture of what these planets are like. This will enable us to answer questions about how the chemistry of a planet links to the environment in which it forms, and how its birth and evolution are affected by its parent star.”

    Discussing the announcement, Dr Neil Bowles, ARIEL Co-Investigator and Associate Professor in the department of Physics at Oxford, said: ‘This is fantastic news. Our experience of observing and exploring our Solar System has shown that each time we get new data we have to alter our understanding of how planets “work” significantly. With ARIEL surveying a large number of exoplanet atmospheres it will be fascinating to see how this extends beyond our Solar System and help us to form some context of how other planetary systems compare.’

    ARIEL is set to launch in 2028 and will take-off from Kourou in French Guiana. It will be positioned to monitor Lagrange Point 2 (L2), a gravitational balance point 1.5 million kilometres beyond the Earth’s orbit of the Sun. A location that both shields the spacecraft from the Sun and offers an optimum clear view of the whole sky to maximise the possible target exoplanets for observations.

    See the full article here.

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    U Oxford campus

    Oxford is a collegiate university, consisting of the central University and colleges. The central University is composed of academic departments and research centres, administrative departments, libraries and museums. The 38 colleges are self-governing and financially independent institutions, which are related to the central University in a federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which were founded by different Christian denominations and which still retain their Christian character.

    The different roles of the colleges and the University have evolved over time.

  • richardmitnick 7:42 am on March 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESA Ariel mission and spacecraft,   

    From ESA: “ESA’s Next Science Mission To Focus on Nature of Exoplanet” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    20 March 2018

    Markus Bauer

    ESA Science Communication Officer

    Tel: +31 71 565 6799

    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954

    Email: markus.bauer@esa.int

    Hot exoplanet.

    The nature of planets orbiting stars in other systems will be the focus for ESA’s fourth medium-class science mission, to be launched in mid 2028.

    Ariel, the Atmospheric Remote‐sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large‐survey mission, was selected by ESA today as part of its Cosmic Vision plan.

    ESA Ariel spacecraft.

    The mission addresses one of the key themes of Cosmic Vision: What are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life?

    Thousands of exoplanets have already been discovered with a huge range of masses, sizes and orbits, but there is no apparent pattern linking these characteristics to the nature of the parent star. In particular, there is a gap in our knowledge of how the planet’s chemistry is linked to the environment where it formed, or whether the type of host star drives the physics and chemistry of the planet’s evolution.

    Ariel will address fundamental questions on what exoplanets are made of and how planetary systems form and evolve by investigating the atmospheres of hundreds of planets orbiting different types of stars, enabling the diversity of properties of both individual planets as well as within populations to be assessed.

    Observations of these worlds will give insights into the early stages of planetary and atmospheric formation, and their subsequent evolution, in turn contributing to put our own Solar System in context.

    “Ariel is a logical next step in exoplanet science, allowing us to progress on key science questions regarding their formation and evolution, while also helping us to understand Earth’s place in the Universe,” says Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science.

    “Ariel will allow European scientists to maintain competitiveness in this dynamic field. It will build on the experiences and knowledge gained from previous exoplanet missions.”

    The mission will focus on warm and hot planets, ranging from super-Earths to gas giants orbiting close to their parent stars, taking advantage of their well-mixed atmospheres to decipher their bulk composition.

    Ariel will measure the chemical fingerprints of the atmospheres as the planet crosses in front of its host star, observing the amount of dimming at a precision level of 10–100 parts per million relative to the star.

    As well as detecting signs of well-known ingredients such as water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane, it will also be able to measure more exotic metallic compounds, putting the planet in context of the chemical environment of the host star.

    For a select number of planets, Ariel will also perform a deep survey of their cloud systems and study seasonal and daily atmospheric variations.

    Ariel’s metre-class telescope will operate at visible and infrared wavelengths. It will be launched on ESA’s new Ariane 6 rocket from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou in mid 2028. It will operate from an orbit around the second Lagrange point, L2, 1.5 million kilometres directly ‘behind’ Earth as viewed from the Sun, on an initial four-year mission.

    Following its selection by ESA’s Science Programme Committee, the mission will continue into another round of detailed mission study to define the satellite’s design. This would lead to the ‘adoption’ of the mission – presently planned for 2020 – following which an industrial contractor will be selected to build it.

    Ariel was chosen from three candidates, competing against the space plasma physics mission Thor (Turbulence Heating ObserveR) and the high-energy astrophysics mission Xipe (X-ray Imaging Polarimetry Explorer).

    Solar Orbiter, Euclid and Plato have already been selected as medium-class missions.

    NASA/ESA Solar Orbiter

    ESA/Euclid spacecraft


    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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