The SAINT-EX project, named after the author of the Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, set out to change that. It was equipped with instruments specifically suited to observe ultra-cool stars, which are both relatively dim and quite reddish in color.
With its precise instruments, the telescope has already confirmed two new planets that could potentially hold liquid water. Corresponding scientific publications are in preparation, as Prof. Demory tells PlanetS.
Support for CHEOPS
Furthermore, SAINT-EX also provides vital ground support for the space-based CHEOPS telescope. It does so, for example, by precisely monitoring objects that are investigated with CHEOPS. It thus serves as a control, with which it can be verified that measurements taken by the space-telescope are indeed signals caused by the objects and not by the spacecraft itself.
Ultimately, Brice Demory hopes, the data that SAINT-EX provides, will help finding answers to profound research questions, such as the necessary conditions for the emergence of life. So far, we only have one data point: Earth. But other environments might also support biological activity. Only by exploring the variety of exoplanets in habitable zones can we increase our understanding, the scientist tells us.
One thing is certain: we should expect to be surprised. If the research that motivated SAINT-EX has taught us anything, as Demory puts it, it’s that "We should not always trust the theory!". Further results from the telescope in the Mexican mountains may strengthen his point.