More than 5000 exoplanets have been discovered to date, but what do they look like? ESA’s dedicated exoplanet missions Cheops, Plato and Ariel are on a quest to find out. Cheops will focus its search on mini-Neptunes, planets with sizes between Earth and Neptune, on short orbits around their stars.
Cheops will find out how large these planets are, and may detect whether the planets have clouds. Plato will look at all kinds of exoplanets and determine their sizes and ages. Plato’s instruments are so sensitive it may discover the first Earth-like planet on an Earth-like orbit.
Finally, Ariel will look at the atmospheres of exoplanets using the technique of transmission spectroscopy and discover what they are made of. Together these missions will discover what exoplanets and their systems look like and they will also reveal how special our own Solar System is.
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