Our astronomers constantly look to space to study what is out there. China, for some time now, has become one of the leading space powers in the world from launching its first rovers to the Moon and Mars, to building its own space station.
According to Nature, China has recently joined the hunt for a habitable exoplanet—a second Earth, to put it simply. Scientists from the said country aim to release a detailed plan this month on how they will proceed with this mission.
The mission to discover another Earth
It has long been a fascinating study of the possibility of the existence of an Earth 2.0. That’s why China has finally decided to join the race for discovering an exoplanet within the Milky Way galaxy.
An exoplanet refers to a planet that is beyond our solar system. It is their mission to try and find such a planet, orbiting around the zone of its sun, that could sustain life similar to how we can live here on Earth.
This doesn’t mean that no exoplanets have been discovered yet. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently announced that there were more than 5,000 exoplanets discovered using the Kepler telescope alone. However, none of these exoplanets can be considered an Earth 2.0.
China’s new project to build a satellite will be funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It is still in its early stages, and it will be assessed by a panel of experts come June before giving the go-signal for it to commence building. The space observatory expects to launch a Long March rocket come 2026.
A satellite more powerful than Kepler
Jian Ge, the astronomer overseeing this mission claims that this new satellite will be 10 to 15 times more powerful than the Kepler telescope.
This is because the satellite is to be equipped with 7 telescopes—6 of which will observe the Cygnus-Lyra constellations that were previously observed by NASA’s Kepler. Moreover, it has the capability to sweep the skies 5 times wider than Kepler.
It even has the capacity to observe distant and dimmer starts more than NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
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How China’s satellite will work
The 6 main telescopes mentioned will search for exoplanets by finding dips in the brightness of stars which shows the planet is orbiting.
The 7th telescope will be called a gravitational microlensing telescope meaning it is in charge of searching for rogue planets that do not orbit any star. Additionally, it also observes exoplanets that orbit far away from their star.
According to Ge, there will be a lot of data involved especially when it could take years to collect the required information. This is also why the satellite will be trained to focus on a populated part of the Milky Way for four years.
The future of space exploration
China also looks toward a better opportunity for international collaboration, particularly in space exploration.
With this in mind, we can safely assume that the future of discovering more of what is beyond Earth has a massive potential to grow. Perhaps if things are successful, we can finally acquire the knowledge of a second Earth somewhere out there.