NASA announced last week that it willparticipate in the mission of the European Space Agency, whose launch is scheduled for 2028. The spacecraft called ARIEL, created specifically for remote sensing of the atmospheres of exoplanets in the infrared spectrum, will be the first spacecraft dedicated entirely to the study of the composition of the outer gas envelope of objects remote from us for many light years.
What is NASA's ARIEL mission?
Currently revolving around our planeta large number of spacecraft, daily supplying scientists with more and more new data on the structure of our Universe. In an effort to find at least some semblance of alien life, NASA experts decided to start by analyzing the atmospheres of distant exoplanets using the ARIEL space mission, which for four years will scan stellar space and be able to study more than a thousand exoplanets in this way. During its main mission, ARIEL will study the atmosphere of approximately 1000 exoplanets, due to which NASA will be able to obtain a large amount of data on the composition of the atmospheres of exoplanets and will be able to determine whether the sky of these exoplanets is cloudy, foggy or clear. The results will help astronomers understand how planets and their atmospheres form and change over time.
According to information published on the portalastronomy.com, to date, astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets using the so-called transit method, which helps to find distant planets only by observing the stars and objects passing in front of their disk. Using tools similar to the ARIEL mission, astronomers will be able to identify information such as the chemical composition and temperature of the atmospheres of exoplanets, as well as recognize those chemical reactions that occur billions of kilometers from us.
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Despite the James Space TelescopeWebba, whose launch is scheduled for 2021, will also be able to study the atmosphere of exoplanets, the main mission of the space telescope will be to find rocky worlds and their satellites. The ARIEL project will be able to deepen the information received by the telescope and provide a scientific base for the James Webb successor telescope - the ATLAST space telescope, whose launch is scheduled for the mid-2030s.
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Understanding if there are clouds on an exoplanet orfogs, will help astronomers better interpret other atmospheric parameters of a planet, such as chemical composition and temperature, and find out what physical and chemical processes occur in a particular alien world. In addition, understanding the chemical composition of the atmospheres of exoplanets can help decide which of the two leading theories of planet formation is most likely. So, if one theory assumes that planets, as a rule, contain similar fractions of heavy elements as their host stars, then another version suggests that fractions of heavy elements can be completely different and independent of nearby stars.