The search for extrasolar planets continues
by Staff Writers
Berlin, Germany (SPX) Oct 15, 2019
The discovery of the first exoplanet almost 25 years ago changed our perception of the origin and evolution of the Universe and challenged the uniqueness of our own Solar System. Today, scientists from the German Aerospace Center and other organisations are using new techniques and instruments on ESA missions such as CHEOPS and PLATO to set their sights even higher - the hunt for a second Earth.
This year's Nobel Prize in Physics 2019 will be awarded with one half to James Peebles for his work on structure formation in the early Universe, and the other half to the two Geneva-based astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, for their discovery of the first exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star. Their 1995 publication, 'A Jupiter-mass companion to a solar-type star' (Nature, volume 378), confirmed the discovery of a planet orbiting a Sun-like star.
Their findings sparked a new and rapidly-expanding area of astronomy - the search for extrasolar planets, or exoplanets. DLR has been active in this field since the beginning, specifically using space telescopes.
DLR researchers extend sincere congratulations to their colleagues Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz. They will receive the famous Nobel diploma - each a unique work of art - from the King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustaf in Stockholm on 10 December 2019, the anniversary of the death of Nobel Prize founder Alfred Nobel.
The discovery by the two Swiss astronomers was based on measurements using the ELODIE spectrograph at the Haute-Provence Observatory, located approximately 90 kilometres east of Avignon, France.
Since then, the number of discovered exoplanets has risen rapidly, leading to increasing calls from the scientific community for a systematic search for exoplanets using space telescopes, whose observations are not impaired by the Earth's atmosphere. The first space mission dedicated to exoplanetary research, CoRoT, was given green in the year 2000.
At that time, only some 50 exoplanets had been confirmed. CoRoT was a French satellite mission with contributions from ESA and DLR. The mission led to the discovery of the first rocky exoplanet, CoRoT-7b. Prior to this, scientists had only identified 'hot Jupiters' - planets with diameters exceeding 100,000 kilometres.
These planets are similar to the gas giant Jupiter - the largest planet in the Solar System - but have very short orbital periods that expose them to extremely high temperatures. DLR scientists were named alongside Mayor and Queloz in the list of authors credited with the discovery of CoRoT-7b.
The discovery of 51 Pegasi b revolutionised the field of astronomy
But the increasingly frequent discoveries of exoplanets have raised new and exciting questions. The 4000 exoplanets discovered to date are extremely diverse. They have exotic characteristics, such as extremely short orbital periods that defy the general theories of planetary formation and evolution. One of the most fundamental questions addresses the uniqueness of the Solar System and planet Earth - the only celestial body known to harbour life.
Searching for Earth-like exoplanets with CHEOPS and PLATO
The PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) mission is scheduled for 2026. The consortium responsible for its scientific instrument is led by Heike Rauer of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research. Equipped with 26 individual telescopes and cameras, the PLATO space telescope will be the first instrument able to identify Earth-sized planets in the 'habitable', life-friendly zone around Sun-like stars, in which water can exist in liquid form.
The mission will include the detection of planets using the transit method from space as well as subsequent measurements with other telescopes. These findings will help compile a detailed catalogue of the radius, mass, age and host star of each exoplanet.
These future discoveries may include rocky planets with atmospheres, the structure and composition of which will be determined by spectroscopic transit measurements (observing the changes to the light of the star as it passes through the planet's atmosphere). This will be the primary role of the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (ARIEL), the ESA exoplanetary mission scheduled for launch in 2028.
The Nobel Prize for Physics awarded to Mayor and Queloz demonstrates that the discovery of the first exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star 25 years ago changed our understanding of the Universe and our place in it. In the near future, scientific and technological advances and opportunities, such as the PLATO mission, will enable us to obtain further insights into the origin and evolution of our own planet.
This research hopes to find out whether exoplanets in the Milky Way, or even beyond, possess the conditions required for the emergence of life and, ultimately, answer the fundamental question of whether they once harboured life or continue to do so.
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.