ISRO sets sights on potentially habitable exo-planets

ISRO chairman announces mission to study Venus and exo-planets

exoplanet-artist-illus-nasa Artist's illustration of exoplanet | NASA

After the success of the Moon mission, ISRO has set sights on unlocking the mysteries of dying stars and exo-planets some of which are known to have atmosphere and are considered habitable, Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman S Somanath said on Tuesday.

Delivering a lecture organised by the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), Somanath said the space agency was also planning a mission to study the planet Venus, two satellites to study space climate and its impact on the earth, and conceptualising a project to land a spacecraft on Mars.

ISRO Chairman S Somanath announced that the Indian Space Research Organisation is now aiming to explore the enigmatic phenomena of dying stars and exoplanets with potentially habitable atmospheres. In addition, ISRO has plans to conduct a mission to investigate the planet Venus, launch two satellites to study space climate and its effects on Earth, and is in the process of conceptualizing a project to successfully land a spacecraft on Mars.

He said XPoSat, also known as the X-Ray Polarimeter Satellite, is set to be launched in December of this year. This satellite is intended for studying bright X-ray pulsars, which are stars that are nearing the end of their life cycle.

"We are also conceiving a satellite called ExoWorlds, a mission for looking at exo-solar planets or planets that are outside our solar system and orbiting other stars," Somanath said.

Somanath explained that there are over 5,000 identified exoplanets, with at least 100 of them believed to have atmospheres. The main objective of the ExoWorlds mission is to investigate the composition of these exoplanet atmospheres and determine if they are conducive to supporting life or if they already harbor life forms.

He said the plans for a Mars Lander Mission too were at the conceptual stage.

According to the ISRO chief, studying Venus is crucial due to several factors. One significant reason is that Venus has an atmosphere with an atmospheric pressure approximately 100 times higher than that of Earth's near its surface. However, the exact cause of this high atmospheric pressure remains unknown to scientists. Additionally, Venus is surrounded by dense clouds that contain acidic compounds, making it extremely challenging to explore the planet's surface.

"It is important to understand the evolution of planetary bodies. Only if you look at Venus, Mars one can actually study what effects are there in your activities on the earth that actually makes it habitable or non-habitable. All this will depend on your understanding of it and the ability to act on it," Somanath said. 

(With inputs from PTI)