A Tiny, Inexpensive Satellite Will be Studying the Atmospheres of hot Jupiters – Universe Today

The Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (aptly nicknamed CUTE) is a brand new, NASA-funded mission that goals to check the atmospheres of large, superheated exoplanets – often called hot Jupiters – round distant stars. The miniaturized satellite tv for pc, constructed by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, is about to launch this Monday, September 27th on an Atlas V rocket.

Small-sized satellites like CUTE, often called CubeSats, are nothing new. They’ve lengthy been a staple of collaborative college pupil initiatives, as low cost methods to get engineering expertise in area. But these days, researchers have been pushing the boundaries of what CubeSats are succesful of, placing them to the check with an increasing number of formidable initiatives. In 2018, for instance, the first interplanetary CubeSats (MarCO-A and-B) left low earth orbit and traveled to Mars with NASA’s InSight lander, offering communications and telemetry for the lander because it descended in direction of the planet. CUTE, on the different hand, will stay in Earth orbit, however the scope of its ambition is equally lofty for such a small spacecraft.
Its major mission is to know the risky physics round hot Jupiters. These monumental exoplanets don’t have any analog in our photo voltaic system: they’re comparable in measurement to our gasoline giants, however orbit a lot nearer to their stars, and might attain temperatures of over 7,800 levels Fahrenheit.
CUTE principal investigator Kevin France explains that “because these planets are parked so close to their parent stars, they receive a tremendous amount of radiation.” That radiation heats the planets, inflicting their atmospheres to inflate and broaden. Some of the gasoline finally escapes and streams away from the planet.
University of Colorado graduate pupil Arika Egan leads set up of the CUTE CubeSat into the EFS dispenser system at Vandenberg Space Force Base on July 23, 2021. Credit: NASA / WFF
CUTE will spend its 7-month mission observing as many hot Jupiters as it will possibly (10 at minimal), and measuring how rapidly gasoline is escaping from them. Atmospheric escape is a course of that occurs to all planets, Earth included, however nothing like as rapidly or on such massive scales as on these hot Jupiters. Still, understanding the way it works on these giants can assist researchers perceive the way it works on rocky worlds too. If profitable, the knowledge CUTE gathers will be used to know the processes of atmospheric escape on a variety of completely different planet sorts.
This is the first time a NASA-funded CubeSat has been used to check exoplanets. LASP Director Daniel Baker is happy by what these tiny spacecraft can accomplish. “As little as a decade ago,” he mentioned, “many in the space community expressed the opinion that CubeSat missions were little more than ‘toys. There was recognition that small spacecraft could be useful as teaching and training tools, but there was widespread skepticism that forefront science could be done with such small platforms. I am delighted that LASP and the University of Colorado have led the way in demonstrating that remarkable science can be done with small packages.”
The launch of CUTE from Vandenberg Air Force base in California can be watched stay on September 27th, with liftoff deliberate for two:12 PM EDT.
Learn More:
Daniel Strain, “New cereal box-sized satellite to explore alien planets” CU Boulder Today.
Featured Image: Artist impression of gases being blown away from KELT-9b, one of the hot Jupiters being studied by CUTE. Credit: LASP; NASA/JPL-Caltech/
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