Experts: Canadian astronomers set to join Ariel space mission

Published: 25 July 2023

This week Canada announced it will contribute to the European Space Agency’s Ariel mission. A first mission of its kind, the Ariel space telescope will launch in 2029 to study the atmospheres of distant exoplanets outside of our solar system. Up to 12 Canadian astronomers, including McGill University experts, will be at the front row of the mission, with privileged access to its data. (Canadian Space Agency)

Here are some experts from McGill University who can comment on this topic:

Nicolas Cowan, Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences; Member, Trottier Space Institute at McGill

“I am delighted that the Canadian Space Agency is joining the European Space Agency’s Ariel Mission! This space telescope will study the atmospheres of a thousand planets using infrared spectroscopy, continuing the legacy of NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer, and James Webb space telescopes. My group uses infrared observations of exoplanets to study their surfaces, atmospheres, and climates. We are particularly keen for Ariel to observe the orbital phases of hot planets, giving us key insights into their winds and clouds.”

Nicolas Cowan is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Physics and Earth and Planetary Sciences and a member of the Trottier Space Institute. Professor Cowan is the Canadian co-principal investigator of the Ariel mission and a member of the Ariel Science Team. He studies the surfaces and atmospheres of exoplanets by monitoring how their brightness and color change with time. His research combines geochemistry, geophysics, and atmospheric science to understand planetary climate and habitability.

nicolas.cowan [at] (English, French)

Jared Splinter, PhD student, Department of Earth and Planetary Science and Trottier Space Institute at McGill

"The European Space Agency’s Ariel mission aims to explore the atmospheres of 1000 planets outside our solar system. By analyzing the chemical composition, thermal structure, and observing wind and cloud patterns, this space telescope will provide valuable insights into the diversity and characteristics of these distant worlds. The data collected by this mission will enhance our understanding of exoplanets and I am thrilled to be able to contribute to this mission!"

Jared Splinter is a PhD student in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science and the Trottier Space Institute at McGill. His current research focuses on examining the best methods to analyze exoplanet atmospheres to help inform future exoplanet observations. He studies the nature of exoplanet atmospheres using infrared observations to monitor them across their orbital period.

jared.splinter [at] (English)

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