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Launch of the CHEOPS telescope, the space mission that will take drawings of Spanish children in search of exoplanets
10/12/2019
 
Next week, the European space telescope CHEOPS will be launched from French Guiana to study extrasolar planets.

The telescope carries on board two plates engraved with the miniaturization of 3000 drawings made by European children. Around 300 of these drawings are from Spain

The Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC), that coordinated the collection of the drawings at the state level, has participated in the preparation of the mission since the beginning and will take part in the scientific exploitation of the collected data.

Some of IEEC’s members will attend the launch.


On Tuesday, 17 December 2019, at 05:54 am local time in French Guiana (09:54 am CET), the CHEOPS (CHaracterizing Exoplanet Satellite) mission, a space telescope that aims to study new planets outside the solar system– called exoplanets –is scheduled to launch.

The space telescope carries onboard two plates with about 3000 drawings from European children, including 297 from Spain. The initiative was promoted by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2015, with the organization of a competition among all children between the ages of 8 and 14 in ESA member countries. The intention was to bring space development projects closer to the youngest. The Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC  — Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya) was one of the centres that collaborated at the state level, together with the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) and the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute (IAC), for the collection of the drawings.

The drawings have been engraved in a miniaturized form, shrunk by a factor of 1000, on two titanium plates that CHEOPS will carry in orbit around our planet. The engravings of the drawings and their location on the plate can be consulted, by country and postal code, here. By clicking on the drawing and then on the plate, you can see a comparison between the original and the engraving.

"Travelling into space is a dream that many children have. Now, those who also like drawing will be able to combine their two passions and fulfill their dream with CHEOPS," said in 2015 Ignasi Ribas, director of IEEC, a researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC) and coordinator of the initiative in Spain. “It is a great opportunity to involve young people in an exciting space mission that will help to unveil the secrets of exoplanets”, adds Ribas.

The mission and the launch

The main objective of the CHEOPS space telescope is to accurately measure the radii of those exoplanets for which terrestrial spectroscopic studies have already provided estimates of their masses. Knowing both the mass and the size of the exoplanets will allow scientists to determine their density and therefore their approximate composition, i.e. whether they are gaseous worlds, such as Neptune, or rocky, such as the Earth. For this, CHEOPS will use the technique of transits through very high precision photometry, which consists of measuring the brightness of the star and detecting the decrease when the planet passes in front and hides a part of its disk.

Currently, there are more than 4000 confirmed exoplanets in about 3000 planetary systems, of which more than 650 have more than one planet. The CHEOPS space mission, part of ESA's Cosmic Vision programme, aims to refine the properties of a large sample of them. The mission is a collaboration between ESA and the Swiss Space Office. The acronym CHEOPS is a tribute to Ancient Egypt and a reference to the Cheops pyramid.

The launch, initially planned for 2017, will take place on Tuesday, 17 December 2019, at 05:50 local time from French Guiana, and will be attended by several IEEC members, such as its director Ignasi Ribas, and Josep Colomé and Kike Herrero, Technical Director and researcher at the Montsec Astronomical Observatory, respectively.

“CHEOPS will carry out observations for more than 3 years, and will be key for identifying the most interesting exoplanets to study with future instruments such as the James Webb space telescope,” explains Herrero.

The take-off can be followed live through this website.

Links

- IEEC
- CHEOPS website
- CHEOPS at ESA website

More information

The Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC  — Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya) promotes and coordinates space research and technology development in Catalonia for the benefit of society. IEEC fosters collaborations both locally and worldwide and is an efficient agent of knowledge, innovation and technology transfer. As a result of over 20 years of high-quality research, done in collaboration with major international organisations, IEEC ranks among the best international research centers, focusing on areas such as: astrophysics, cosmology, planetary science, and Earth Observation. IEEC’s engineering division develops instrumentation for ground- and space-based projects, and has extensive experience in working with private or public organisations from the aerospace and other innovation sectors.  

IEEC is a private non-profit foundation, governed by a Board of Trustees composed of Generalitat de Catalunya and four other institutions that each have a research unit, which together constitute the core of IEEC R&D activity: the University of Barcelona (UB) with the research unit ICCUB — Institute of Cosmos Sciences; the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) with the research unit CERES — Center of Space Studies and Research; the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) with the research unit CTE — Research Group in Space Sciences and Technologies; the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) with the research unit ICE — Institute of Space Sciences. IEEC is integrated in the CERCA network (Centres de Recerca de Catalunya).

Images

PR_Image1 CHEOPS Plaque with engraved children’s drawings
Caption: The CHEOPS (CHaracterizing Exoplanet Satellite) space telescope carries onboard two plates with about 3000 drawings from European children, including 297 from Spain.
Credit: Uni Bern.

PR_Image2 Fitted CHEOPS Plaque with engraved children’s drawings
Caption: Children’s drawings have been engraved in a miniaturized form, shrunk by a factor of 1000, on two titanium plates that CHEOPS will carry in orbit around our planet.
Copyright: Uni Bern.

PR_Image3 CHEOPS encapsulation
Caption: In this picture, taken on 29 November, the Souyuz Arianespace System for Auxiliary Payloads (ASAP-S) is progressively lowered, encapsulating CHEOPS. The ASAP-S structure is used to integrate the main passenger, CHEOPS (Characterising Exoplanet Satellite) and the Cubesats into the launcher. 
Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique vidéo du CSG/J Durrenberger.

PR_Image 4 CHEOPS transfer
Caption: ESA’s satellite CHEOPS inside the transport module during transfer to the final integration building on 29 November at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique vidéo du CSG/S Martin.

Contacts
IEEC Communication Office
Barcelona, Spain

Rosa Rodríguez Gasén
E-mail: comunicacio@ieec.cat 

Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC)
Barcelona, Spain

Ignasi Ribas
Director
E-mail: director@ieec.cat

Josep Colomé
Technical Director at the Montsec Astronomical Observatory
E-mail: colome@ieec.cat 

Kike Herrero
Researcher at the Montsec Astronomical Observatory
E-mail: eherrero@ieec.cat 
 
Attached Documents
Generalitat de CatalunyaUniversitat de BarcelonaUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaUniversitat Politècnica de CatalunyaConsejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasCentres de Recerca de Catalunya