Great, European Space Agency Announces New Mission to Find Earth-like Planets

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced their plans to develop a new satellite that will be used to explore exoplanets, i.e. planets outside our solar system.

This is the third exoplanet exploration mission planned by ESA, collaborating with European aerospace company Airbus on its plans to build and develop the new satellite.

What is the purpose of this mission?

The developed satellite, named "Ariel" — short for Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey — will launch in 2029. An exoplanet is a planet orbiting a star or stars outside our solar system. Over four years, the Ariel satellite will collect data on about 1,000 exoplanets, the ESA said in a statement. will help scientists better understand the early stages of how the planet and its atmosphere formed and can show whether there is life beyond Earth.

"They can help us find out if there is life elsewhere in our universe and whether there are other planets like Earth," the ESA said.

Ariel will follow its two predecessors, namely Cheops which was launched in 2019, and Plato which is scheduled to be launched in 2026. In collaboration with Airbus

Airbus has signed a contract with ESA to design and build the "Ariel" satellite.

"With this milestone in Ariel's mission, we celebrate the continuation of an extraordinary relationship with our industry partners to keep Europe at the forefront of excellence in exoplanet research into the next decade and beyond," said ESA's director of science, Günther Hasinger, in a statement.

According to ESA, the satellites will be built and designed at Airbus' two facilities located in Toulouse, France, and Stevenage in the UK. Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus, said the company has "extensive experience" in leading science missions that will help Ariel development.

What is an exoplanet?

Exoplanets or Exo Planets are planets that lie outside our solar system and orbit their own parent star — or multiple stars. Researchers looking to answer the question "is there life out there" hope to find an answer to that question on exoplanets. It is one of the "fastest growing areas in astronomy," according to the ESA. To date, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered - ranging in size from as large as Jupiter to as small as Mercury. analogues in our solar system," according to the ESA.

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