Funny how things progress. Not that long ago other planetary systems were unknown altogether and now we know they are really common place. We’ve even gotten to the point where we going to be looking at the chemical composition of their atmospheres. That’s one of the goals of Ariel or the Atmospheric Remote‐sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large‐survey mission.
Image: (Artist’s impression): ESA/ATG medialab, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
ESA – 20 March 2018 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.
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 mission