Europe to Begin Search for Habitable Planets in Our Cosmic Backyard
Cheops stands for CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite and although its science goals are written in typically conservative scientific language, this mission aims high. At the end of its 3.5 years of operation, it will have built a list of planets around other stars (exoplanets) that astronomers could subsequently analyse for extraterrestrial life. To do this it will target nearby stars that ground-based telescopes have already shown to boast planets in orbit around them. From its vantage point in space, Cheops will be free of the distorting effects of Earth’s atmosphere. Not only will it be able to analyse those worlds more precisely than is yet possible, it will also look for smaller planets around those stars that are impossible to see from the ground.