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Canada to contribute to an ESA exoplanet mission

Artist's impression of the Ariel exoplanet satellite

Artist impression of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Ariel space telescope. (Credit: Airbus)

The Canadian Space Agency will contribute to the ESA's Ariel space telescope mission that will launch in . The first astronomy mission of its kind, Ariel will study the atmospheres of a large and diverse sample of exoplanets. It will allow scientists to study the chemical composition and temperature of exoplanet atmospheres to better understand planet formation and atmospheric phenomena.

Canadian cryoharnesses and science

Canada will contribute crucial electrical cables known as cryoharnesses. They will connect the telescope's complex imaging detector arrays to the spacecraft's computer, transmitting the signal through a wide range of temperatures (from −230 °C to 20 °C) without transmitting too much heat. Canada has the expertise and space heritage to design and build these components, having previously supplied similar technology to the James Webb Space Telescope and other missions.

Thanks to this contribution, Dr. Nicolas Cowan, Associate Professor in the departments of Physics and of Earth & Planetary Sciences at McGill University, has been appointed co-Principal Investigator of the Ariel mission, and will join ESA's Ariel Science Team. Up to 12 Canadian astronomers will also gain privileged access to Ariel's data.

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