Brexit Britain Leads Europe With Signing Of £ 170 Million Deal To Build Superb Space Assets | Sciences | New
The contract was signed by European industry for the construction of the Ariel space telescope, which will see aerospace giant Airbus lead the construction. But the UK will scientifically lead the project, which could see the Ariel telescope launch by 2029. Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, will use its Stevenage facility in the UK for major structural and avionics work.
The news comes as scientists have announced that the coming decade will be rich in new information about the nature of extra-solar planets, or exoplanets.
Over 5,000 have been discovered since the mid-1990s, but so far little has been understood about them.
Over the next few years, scientists will accelerate the analysis of their characterization, to find out what they are made of and how their atmospheres work (if they have any).
Later this month, NASA is set to launch the $ 10 billion (£ 7.6 billion) James Webb Infrared Space Telescope.
Its objective will be to examine in depth a handful of exoplanets, to image them directly and to “take fingerprints” of the gases in their atmospheres.
But while NASA’s telescope will only look at several dozen exoplanets, Ariel is expected to perform a similar function, but for 1,000 exoplanets.
Ralph Cordey of Airbus told BBC News: “Webb is of course a general purpose observatory and it will do a lot more than just study exoplanets. But for Ariel it will be totally focused on this one job.
“100% of his observation time will be devoted to characterizing the atmospheres of exoplanets. “
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Ariel is an acronym for Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey.
The amazing space asset was chosen for development by the Member States of the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2018.
Since then, the project has been the subject of various feasibility studies.
But now, the new contract will allow Airbus and its 60 industrial partners to speed up the design process and finalize the required technologies.
Ariel keeps an eye on each target planet as it moves past its host star, monitoring how starlight changes as it passes through the atmosphere of the moving world to reach the telescope.
This will provide valuable information for understanding the chemistry of the exoplanet’s atmosphere.
Ariel’s goal is to create a large catalog of types.
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Astronomers are trying to find “typical” conditions on exoplanets to develop the “standard model” for planetary systems.
We currently can hardly see any place that resembles our own solar system.
The telescope’s mirror system and instrumentation will be assembled and tested at RAL Space on the Harwell campus in Oxfordshire.
But different components will come from all over Europe.
The mirror system will be all aluminum and will have to operate at very low temperatures, down to -230C (40 Kelvin).
Paul Eccleston, the chief engineer of RAL Space, said: “We are going to build the telescope out of aluminum, with the same material, so that when it goes from room temperature to something very cold it should all shrink at the same rate. ; all surfaces must deform together.
“If it’s perfectly aligned when hot, it should stay perfectly aligned when cold.
“The challenge is actually to be able to make a really large mirror that is 1.1m in diameter, and to be able to polish it to the level we need from a totally flawless block of aluminum that has no inclusions and no difference in grain size. “