Europe’s CHEOPS planet-seeking space telescope launched on Wednesday and reached Earth’s orbit. The spacecraft will calculate the density, structure, and size of planets located outside our Solar System, known as exoplanets.
As per the European Space Agency (ESA), CHEOPS will assay bright stars that are known to be orbited by planets.
“Cheops is 710 kilometers (440 miles) away, exactly where we wanted it to be, it’s absolutely perfect,” Didier Queloz, Nobel Physics Prize winner of this year, said in French Guiana, where the launch was performed. “This is really an exceptional moment in European space history and in the history of the exoplanets.”
Almost 4,000 exoplanets have been spotted since Queloz, and his colleague Michael Mayor detected the first one, known as ’51 Pegasi b,’ 24 years ago. According to live footage broadcast by Arianespace, the company that performed the launch, the satellite launched at 08.54 GMT onboard a Russian Soyuz rocket.
Researchers now believe that the galaxies existing in the Universe are at least the same number with the stars, which is about 100 billion.
“We want to go beyond statistics and study them in detail,” mission chief David Ehrenreich stated before the launch took place.
CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite, or CHEOPS will try to better learn about these planets. This is an important move in the long hunting for signs of life, but also to unravel the origins and history of Earth. The satellite will rotate around our planet at a distance of 700 kilometers (435 miles), observing rocks rotating around stars located several light-years away. The purpose is to create a complete record of exoplanets, as per Guenther Hasinger, ESA’s director of science.
Queloz said that the launch is an important time, “an emotional step, but the real magic moment for us will be when the first results arrive,” and as per ESA, this should happen in just a few months.
The launcher is also carrying a COSMO-SkyMed second-generation satellite for the Italian Space Agency, three small cargos, a nanosatellite from the Italian company Tyvak, and two from France’s space agency.