Space mission

ULiège TRAPPIST telescopes among TESS' ground supports

In Research

Image : NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

A new step in the quest for life elsewhere in the universe, the TESS space telescope will be launched this Monday 16 April 2018 from the Kennedy Space Center (Florida,USA) by a Falcon9 (SpaceX) launcher. The TRAPPIST-South and TRAPPIST-North telescopes of the University of Liège are among the ground supports of this new large-scale space mission.


ASA is about to launch TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), a space telescope designed to search for exoplanets using the transit detection method. The main objective of the mission will be to detect telluric planets orbiting in the habitable zone of their star. The launch of TESS is a new step in the search for planets outside our solar system." « During its two-year mission, TESS will explore approximately 500,000 nearby stars - up to 200 light years away - for transits of exoplanets as small as the Earth, and should identify thousands of exoplanets candidates for further study, explains Michaël Gillon, astronomer at ULiège's STAR Research Institute.  TESS should find dozens of potentially habitable exoplanets, including a few exoplanets well-suited to detailed atmospheric characterization, such as the TRAPPIST-1 planets. »

However, TESS will not work alone. The confirmation of the global nature of the candidate exoplanets will require the support of a large number of terrestrial telescopes." Among them will be our TRAPPIST-South and TRAPPIST-North robotic telescopes, the first operating from Chile and the second from Morocco," says Michaël Gillon. These ground-based telescopes will collaborate with others to confirm the planetary nature of TESS candidates, and to refine the determination of their sizes and orbital periods. The compilation of data collected by TESS and ground-based telescopes will enable determining the composition of the discovered exoplanets, revealing whether they are rocky (like Earth), gas giants (like Jupiter) or something more unusual. Furthermore, some of these planets will be studied further by the James Web Space Telescope, whose launch has just been delayed to 2020.

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