PicSat prepares for launch.
French nanosatellite to demonstrate capabilities for exoplanet observations.
PicSat, a French nanosatellite designed to study the young planetary system Beta-Pictoris, is preparing for launch this Friday morning, 12th January 2018, at 3:58 UTC (watch livestream). Constructed of three 10-cm cubes and holding a telescope of just 5cm diameter coupled to an innovative optical fibre system, PicSat will demonstrate the capabilities of small satellites for observing exoplanet transits.
Beta Pictoris is a young star (around 23 million years old) surrounded by a large debris disc where planetary formation is thought to still be in progress. PicSat’s mission is to observe a transit of Beta-Pictoris b, a giant gas planet about seven times the mass of Jupiter that orbits its star at about the same distance as Saturn from our Sun. The exoplanet takes about 18 years to complete an orbit and is expected to cross the line of sight between Earth and Beta-Pictoris during the summer of 2018. By measuring precisely the timings for the small dip in light as the planet blocks out some of the light from the star, PicSat will help define the diameter of the exoplanet. Starlight filtered through the planet’s atmosphere may carry some clues about chemical composition and cloud cover.
PicSat is the brainchild of Sylvestre Lacour, an astrophysicist at CNRS, in collaboration with Alain Lecavelier des Etangs, de l’Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris (CNRS/Sorbonne Université). The nanosatellite has been developed by the Observatoire de Paris and CNRS, with support from the Université PSL, CNES, the ERC and the FONDATION MERAC.
For more information, see:
PicSat website: https://picsat.obspm.fr/
CNRS Press Release: https://lejournal.cnrs.fr/articles/les-nanosatellites-a-la-conquete-de-lespace