Finding alien life is one of the main goals for astronomers, but unfortunately, there are small chances that we can encounter it in our own Solar System. There are only four rocky planets, so four planets that could be candidates for harboring life. We already know that Earth has life, but on the other three, it’s almost impossible. Venus and Mercury are way too hot, and astronomers have sent some probes to Mars that turned out to be unsuccessful when it comes to finding alien life.
Therefore, the better scenario is to switch our attention to planets outside of our solar system (aka exoplanets). But the more we know such planets, the better. And that’s exactly what the ESA’s satellite is aiming for.
CHEOPS plans to find more exoplanets
The satellite launched by ESA is called ‘Characterizing Exoplanet Satellite’ (aka CHEOPS), and it was launched yesterday (December 18) aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket that took off from the Guiana Space Center. Astronomers are hoping that CHEOPS will help them to find more exoplanets from its position of orbiting the Earth and, thus, having a better view of the nearby stars.
CHEOPS aims to find the exoplanets by pointing at the stars, and thus, finding planets orbiting around them by detecting the ‘black spots’ in front of the stars. The satellite will try to find large planets, from the ones bigger than Earth to those closer to gas giants like Neptune.
But the mission of the CHEOPS satellite is a little more complicated: its ultimate goal is to discover how habitable those exoplanets are. And by doing that, one good way is to determine how dense they are. They should be rocky as our planet, Mars, or Venus, in order to be able to sustain life. If they are gaseous like Jupiter, it would be far more complicated to sustain life as we know it.
Will the CHEOPS satellite find alien life out there?