As we await the launch of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, I want to pause this morning to remind everyone of another significant mission: CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite). The decade ahead is going to be an exciting one for exoplanet discovery, given that we have TESS about ready to go, JWST in the pipeline despite its problems, and CHEOPS expected to launch in 2019. Eleven European nations are involved in CHEOPS, a European Space Agency ‘S-class’ mission that will study exoplanetary transits.
Image: Artist’s impression of CHEOPS at work. Credit: ESA.
In 2026, we can look forward to ESA’s PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO) mission, which will study up to a million stars in search of planetary transits, with the emphasis on rocky planets in the habitable zone. In 2028, we have the ARIEL mission (Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey) to anticipate (see ARIEL: Focus on Exoplanet Atmospheres). What a run of space-based photometric discovery lies ahead.
We’ve been studying exoplanet transits from space since 2006, when the CoRoT mission launched. CoRoT examined two fields of view, each containing several thousand dwarf stars with magnitudes ranging from 11 to 16. In its five years of operations, the mission ...