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Blog

Mini-mission will search for super-Earths

The ESA Cheops mission


Cheap as Cheops: the exoplanet hunter is the ESA’s first “quick-turnaround mission”. (Courtesy: ESA)

By Hamish Johnston

In 2017 the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch a space mission called Cheops, which will take a closer look at nearby bright stars that are already known to have exoplanets orbiting around them.

The mission will measure the brightness of the stars, looking for tiny dips associated with a transit – when an exoplanet passes in front of its star, blocking some of the light that reaches Earth.

“By concentrating on specific known exoplanet host stars, Cheops will enable scientists to conduct comparative studies of planets down to the mass of Earth with a precision that simply cannot be achieved from the ground,” said Alvaro Giménez-Cañete who is ESA’s director of science and robotic exploration.

“The mission was selected from 26 proposals submitted in response to the Call for Small Missions in March, highlighting the strong interest of the scientific community in dedicated, quick-turnaround missions focusing on key open issues in space science,” added Giménez-Cañete.

Cheops is an acronym – any guesses for what it stands for?

Its full name is “CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite”!

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