Queen Mary astronomer to play key role in ESA’s Ariel exoplanet mission

Dr James Cho of the School of Physics and Astronomy is a member of the UK-led international team that will develop the European Space Agency’s Ariel mission, dedicated to observing and characterising planets in orbit around other stars (exoplanets).

Ariel (Atmospheric Remote-sensing Exoplanet Large-survey), which was given the go-ahead by ESA on 21 March, aims to answer fundamental questions about how planetary systems form and evolve and about their chemical and dynamical nature. The spacecraft is expected to launch in 2028 and over the course of 4 years it will observe 1000 exoplanets in the visible and infrared with its metre-class telescope. ARIEL’s spectra and photometric data will allow astronomers to study the planets’ atmospheres in unprecedented detail.

James Cho, whose research at QMUL centres around planetary atmospheres, will lead the ARIEL scientific activity connected with atmospheric and climate dynamics.  He will help with planning and interpreting observations and with developing and applying advanced theoretical models.

The detection and study of exoplanets is emerging as one of the most important areas of modern astronomy, as new instruments and new techniques permit ever more detailed observations of these distant worlds. The tantalising hope is that we may one day find a planet with conditions suitable for the emergence of life.

Researchers in QMUL’s School of Physics and Astronomy are engaged in a range of observations and theoretical studies that aim to find and understand exoplanets, alongside searching for molecules in the material from which planets form that might go on to produce the chemical basis of life as we know it.

Further details of the Ariel mission can be found here.