Since 1990, about 4,500 exoplanets have been discovered, but science still does not know their size, atmospheric composition, and other details. All these and other questions must be answered by the new Cheops telescope, successfully launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) on the Russian Soyuz rocket.
Cheops (CHEOPS, short for CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) is a joint project of 11 states. Unlike other telescopes, he will not search for new objects, focusing on the study of already discovered exoplanets. The device will be able to determine the exact diameter of cosmic bodies by the transit method, observing their passage against the background of “their” star.
A list of targets has been compiled for the telescope, consisting of approximately 500 objects that it will study in the next 3.5 years. Most of these worlds have a size in the range between Earth and Neptune. For them, a special term was even coined – “super-earths.” The difficulty in studying such cosmic bodies is that when a planet the size of Jupiter passes in front of a star like the Sun, the decrease in the apparent brightness of the star with the “eyes” of the telescope will be only 1%. If the planet is the size of the Earth, this figure will drop to 0.01%.
CHEOPS is another space observatory that will allow scientists to look into deep space. Currently, Hubble and TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) are already doing this, and the James Webb Space Telescope, which is due to be launched in 2021, is under development.