Closeby Habitable Exoplanet Survey (CHES)

China proposed a project named Closeby Habitable Exoplanet Survey (CHES) to survey the sky through a space-based telescope.

What is the objective?

The objective is to find habitable terrestrial planets outside the solar system, around 32 light-years from Earth. It will be the first space mission specially designed to search for habitable Earth-like planets around nearby stars.

The project involves observing around 100 Sun-like stars and measuring even tiny changes in their relative position in the sky to search for Earth-like planets around them. By observing a periodic wobble in the host star’s position, planets can be discovered. This is because the planet and its star influence each other’s motions due to mutual gravitational pull.

CHES can measure the wobble of a star to the accuracy of 1 micro arcsecond. To achieve this accuracy, scientists are working on a key technology called laser focal plane metrology. CHES is expected to discover around 50 terrestrial planets.

When will the project be ready?

Once the project gets final approval, the telescope will be built in around five years and will be put into an orbit 1.5 million km away from the Earth (Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point).

How many exoplanets were discovered till now?

Till now around 5,000 exoplanets have been discovered, including around 50 Earth-like planets in the habitable zone, but most of them are many light-years away from Earth.

What are the other exoplanet discovery missions?

Other famous missions include NASA’s Kepler telescope and TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite). Besides CHES, scientists from China are also planning for other projects related to exoplanet discovery, they are Earth 2.0 (to survey exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy), Miyin project (to search for habitable planets), and HABITATS (HABItable Terrestrial planetary ATmospheric Surveyor).

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