Exoplanet Hunter CHEOPS Scours the Universe for New Worlds

The ESA exoplanet hunter CHEOPS is getting ready to enroll in one of the most daring missions so far. After floating in space for many months, the satellite will prove its skills. CHEOPS short for CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite performed up to three months of advanced tests before taking its chance on this new quest.

It runs similarly to NASA’s TESS spacecraft, utilizing something dubbed as the transit procedure. Such a method is used to spot any decrease in a star’s brightness that could show a previously unknown planet.

ESA teamed up with the University of Geneva and the University of Bern for the upcoming project. Part of the trial for CHEOPS was that researchers had to lead many of these tests from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. But, they succeeded in pulling it off.

CHEOPS’s Quest for Exoplanets

CHEOPS had to bring some fantastic results before it received the approval. The satellite had to keep its calculations of the brightness of a star of precisely 0.02 % for two days. It seems like unreal perfectionism, but scientists need the most accurate telescopic eye possible. There are stars in the Universe even more unusual in comparison to the planets that move by them.

Another test CHEOPS had to do was staring at HD 88111 in the Hydra constellation. It’s a star of 175 light-years away from our planet that no planet orbits it. CHEOPS photographed HD88111 for up to every 30 seconds for 47 hours. The results comprised a total of 5.640 images.

The team expected some drops in brightness that could be made by asteroids or any other space objects. What CHEOPS spotted was the HD88111’s light curve. Such an aspect represents any modifications in brightness over time. In HD88111’s case, the curve was flat. CHEOPS can perform measurements up to five times more precise than those from Earth. Now that TESS stepped in, too, the satellite’s efficacy in searching for exoplanets might be even more powerful.

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