China plans to launch large space telescope for exoplanets

Beijing May 21 (BNA): China is funding a concept study and is considering funding a feasibility study for a large exoplanet-hunting space telescope that aims to start operating around 2035, according to its researchers.

The 6-meter ultraviolet to optical space telescope, named Tianlin or “neighbor in the sky” in Chinese, will mainly be devoted to searching for Earth-like planets, especially Earth-twins, in the habitable zones around nearby stars, according to researchers from the main laboratory. for visual astronomy under the National Astronomical Observatories in Beijing.

Xinhua News Agency reported that the habitable zone is areas that are neither too hot nor too cold around a star where liquid water can exist on a planet’s surface.

The Tianlin telescope, with an aperture size of 6 meters, will be launched into the L2 point halo orbit of the Sun and Earth. The L2 point in the Earth-Sun system is ideal for astronomy because the spacecraft is close enough to communicate with Earth, it can keep the Sun, Earth and Moon behind the spacecraft for solar energy, and it provides a clear view of deep space for telescopes.

The telescope will use four precision sensors, a wide-band and high-dispersion spectrograph, a high spatial resolution camera, and a high-contrast coronagraph, to capture spectral features of ozone, oxygen, water, and methane.

The primary goal of the mission is to search and characterize the atmospheres of nearby exoplanets, especially Earth-like planets and nearby rocky planets around G and K stars, to investigate their habitability, and to search for possible biosignatures in the atmosphere or on their surfaces, the researchers said.

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Stars like our Sun are classified as G stars. They are yellow and have surface temperatures from 5,000 to 6,000 K (4,726.85 °C to 5,726.86 °C). K Stars are less massive and cooler than our Sun, and are yellow to orange at about 3,500 to 5,000 K.

The secondary scientific goal is to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the different types of planets and planetary systems in terms of their components, how they form and develop, and what constitutes their atmosphere by conducting an in-depth spectral survey of a sample (more than 100) of nearby rocky and gaseous planets with accuracy and precision.

The entire observatory, including the telescope and instruments, will weigh about 15.6 tons. It will be stationed on a spacecraft platform that will be developed in conjunction with the telescope, to achieve the high dynamic and thermal stability required by mission objectives.

According to the researchers, the total payload may weigh 40 tons and is scheduled to be launched around 2035 by a Chinese next-generation Long March-9 heavy carrier rocket.


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