Champagne box-sized satellite to probe distant planet

phys.org | 1/11/2018 | Staff
lukealukea (Posted by) Level 4
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An artist's impression of PicSat in orbit around the Earth. PicSat rendering © Lesia / Observatoire de Paris; Background image T. Pesquet ESA / NASA.

France is set to launch a champagne box-sized mini satellite into Earth orbit on Friday to study a mysterious, juvenile planet system in our Milky Way galaxy, mission controllers said.

PicSat - Orbiter - Target - Star - Beta

The PicSat orbiter's target is the massive star Beta Pictoris, some 60 light years from Earth in the southern constellation of Pictor (The Painter's Easel), and its planet Beta Pictoris b—a gassy giant.

Built at the Paris Observatory's LESIA laboratory, with European backing, PicSat is due to be launched in the early-morning hours of Friday on an Indian PSLV rocket.

Planet - Altitude - Kilometres - Miles - Beta

It will orbit our planet at an altitude of some 500 kilometres (310 miles), hoping to learn more about Beta Pictoris b by observing the next time it transits its host star, appearing as a dot on the bright surface as seen from Earth's perspective.

This once-in-18-year transit is expected some time in 2018, mission leader Sylvestre Lacour, an astrophysicist at France's CNRS research institute, told AFP.

Sure - Transit - PicSat - Lifetime - Orbit

"We are not 100-percent sure that the transit will happen" during PicSat's one-year lifetime, he said, as "the orbit of Beta Pictoris b is not well-known."

If not, "we will observe...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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