A small satellite probes a distant planet

A small satellite probes a distant planet

PicSat's artistic vision in orbit around our planet

On January 12, France plans to launch a mini-satellite the size of champagne into orbit around the Earth in order to study the mysterious system of planets in our galaxy.

The aim of the device is the Beta Painter star, distant from us for 60 light years and living on the territory of the Painter, as well as its planet Beta Painter b - the gas giant.

The satellite was created in the LESIA laboratory at the Paris Observatory. To launch in the early Friday morning, use the Indian rocket PSLV.

The vehicle will rotate around our planet at an altitude of 500 km, trying to get more information about Beta Painter b. The planet must pass in front of the star and be marked in the lens as a point on a bright surface.

An 18 year transit is expected in 2018. However, there is no 100% certainty that this event will occur, because there is no accurate data on the orbital path of the planet. If not, then scientists will be engaged in spying on secondary objects near the star. Measuring the amount of light blocked by the planet during the passage, one can obtain data on the size and composition of the atmosphere. PicSat options are 10 x 10 x 30 cm.

Planet in rotation

The device is equipped with a telescope, as well as solar panels for powering all systems. The total weight is 3.5 kg, and the power consumption is 5 W (comparable to an economical light bulb).

Beta Painter was first seen in 1984. Its mass is about 1.8 times the solar one. The age is 20 million years, which is much younger than the Sun (4.5 billion years). Around the star is concentrated giant gas and dust disk. It is from these materials that planets, asteroids and comets are formed, which means we have an ideal example for studying the development of solar systems.

Beta Painter b is 16 times larger and 3000 times more massive than Earth, and the day lasts 8 hours. The distance to the star is 8 times greater than the Earth-Sun distance. In 2014, they determined the rotation speed - 25 km / s.

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