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DIAS scientist amongst leaders of Ariel mission to explore distant exoplanets

Irish scientist Tom Ray – based at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) – is one of the leaders of the Ariel mission that has been adopted by the European Space Agency (ESA) this week to explore the atmospheres of distant worlds.

Professor Tom Ray at the IAU Above and Beyond exhibition in 2019

Ariel is a space telescope, built to study the atmospheres of distant exoplanets. Following the Institute’s successful work on the James Webb Space Telescope, scientists at DIAS have been working – with European partners – to build Ariel since 2016.

Yesterday’s ESA approval means the Ariel observatory is now set to launch in 2029. Ariel will be despatched to a special observing position that is approximately 1.5 million kilometres from Earth to probe the gases that surround exoplanets with the aim of discovering how these objects formed and how they have evolved over time.

Commenting today (13.11.20), DIAS’s Professor Tom Ray, a Co-Principal Investigator for the mission, said: “We are delighted that Ariel has been formally adopted by the ESA and now has the green light to launch in 2029. This is an exciting achievement for scientists here in Ireland – and across Europe.

“The findings of the Ariel mission will help scientists better understand the nature of our Solar System in a wider context.”

Professor Ray and his colleagues at DIAS and UCD are responsible for Ariel’s special optical and infrared filters, which will split up the light from the exoplanets and their parent stars into different wavelengths. Exoplanet research is a new research theme for DIAS, as outlined in our strategy Embedded globally, strength locally.

Further information about the Ariel mission is available at: https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/Ariel_moves_from_blueprint_to_reality