First Consortium Meeting for EChO Mission
Scientists and engineers meet at the HdA to plan a new space telescope
Looking for life on planets orbiting stars other than the Sun? To the best of our knowledge, this quest can only be successful once precision studies of exoplanet atmospheres have become feasible. Currently, astronomers are taking first steps in this direction: Exoplanets that cross their host star's disk, as seen by an observer on Earth ("transiting" exoplanets), allow for this kind of study as the host star shines through the planet's atmosphere.
The ESA space telescope EChO (Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory, see image on the left) is designed to exploit this kind of technique to the max, yielding more thorough studies of exoplanet atmospheres than ever before. EChO is, however, still in the early planning stages: On January 11 and 12, the consortium responsible for the mission's scientific payload held their first meeting. The Haus der Astronomie played host to 45 scientists and engineers from European institutes, aerospace companies and from the European Space Agency ESA who discussed the next steps for the mission, which is a candidate for an ESA medium sized mission with launch date 2024.
Study lead Oliver Krause of MPIA expressed his satisfaction with the meeting: "EChO's scientific goals call for a highly sophisticated spectrograph. You can only develop such an ambitious instrument if scientists and engineers work together very closely. This meeting was the kick-off for our feasibility study, and we're very happy with the way things are going."
Max Planck Institute for Astronomy
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