ALIEN Worlds and ARIEL: Enabling planetary science across light-years - join us at Space Store to hear Dr Chris Pearson from the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory talk about this incredibly fascinating subject!
Less than 30 years ago the only planets known to exist were those found within our own Solar System. From the first confirmed discovery in 1992 - of a pair of exotic planets orbiting around a dead star - the field of exoplanetary science has undergone nothing short of a revolution. Currently we stand at a staggering 4000+ confirmed discoveries of planets outside our Solar System.
What we have found is that, as usual, our Universe is more diverse that we could possibly imagine, throwing up a menagerie of weird and wonderful planets such as Jupiter sized worlds orbiting ridiculously close to their parent stars, worlds made of ice, lava and even diamond, to rogue planets drifting alone in the vastness of space.
With such a treasure trove of discovery, the next logical step is to characterise the properties of these systems. We are at the dawn of a new age in exoplanet research where for the first time large numbers of 1000+ exoplanets are not only being detected but also characterised by analysing the composition of their atmospheres.
The UK led - European Space Agency's ARIEL mission, due for launch in 2028, will become the leading facility in this characterisation process.