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European satellite to explore exoplanets to be launched in December

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European satellite to explore exoplanets to be launched in December

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Geneva, 16 Sept (EFE) .- The European Space Agency (ESA) Cheops satellite, which will explore exoplanets, will be launched in mid-December in French Guiana and will begin its observations in April.

The launch was scheduled for October or November, but the new date was unveiled on Monday at a news conference by mission scientist Kate Isaak, during a meeting of European and American planetologists held in Geneva.

The satellite, mostly made in Spain, is in Madrid, where "the calibration of the instruments is over, simulations and tests are underway and the scientific program is in its final stages," according to Isaak.

Cheops is a space telescope that will study exoplanets by changing the light they produce as they pass in front of orbiting stars (called planetary transit).

Another project manager, Willy Benz of the University of Bern, explained today that the goal of Cheops (Exoplanet Characterizer Satellite) is not so much to discover new planets away from the Solar System, but to learn about the more than four thousand already known.

"We are more interested in knowing what they are made of and what their temperature, as well as the composition of their atmosphere, whether they have their own moons or rings like those on Saturn," he said.

Cheops will be the first of an ESA project to study exoplanets, which will continue to launch two other probes, Plato and Ariel, at the end of the next decade. EFE

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