U of T Astronomer Joins Twinkle Space Mission


Are we alone in the Universe? A new international space mission involving one U of T astronomer may help us get closer to finding out.

University of Toronto CLTA Assistant Professor Hilding Neilson has joined the Exoplanet Survey Science Team of the Twinkle Space Mission – a privately funded, seven-year mission that uses a satellite-based telescope to study the makeup of exoplanet atmospheres and solar system bodies.

Twinkle analyzes exoplanets — the planets beyond our solar system — by observing starlight filtered through their atmospheres, using visible and infrared spectroscopy. It will be the first mission to do a comprehensive study of over 100 exoplanet atmospheres.

The data collected by the mission could help detect certain substances on exoplanets – things like the presence of methane and water vapour – that could provide clues about the viability of alien life.

Neilson says he’s thrilled to be a part of this important team.

“Twinkle is a tremendous opportunity to study exoplanets and their host stars,” he says. “We hope to learn about the possibilities for life to exist in other Solar Systems, and to better understand ourselves and our place in the Universe.”

Operations are scheduled to begin in 2024.

The mission is being part-funded by several academic institutions, including the University of Toronto.

To learn more about the Twinkle Space Mission, visit twinkle-spacemission.co.uk.


For more information, please contact:
Meaghan MacSween
Communications and Multimedia Officer
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics,
University of Toronto


The Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto is an endowed research institute with more than 90 faculty, postdocs, students and staff, dedicated to innovative technology, ground-breaking research, world-class training, and public engagement. The research themes of its faculty and Dunlap Fellows span the Universe and include: optical, infrared and radio instrumentation; Dark Energy; large-scale structure; the Cosmic Microwave Background; the interstellar medium; galaxy evolution; cosmic magnetism; and time-domain science. The Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, David A. Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics comprise the leading centre for astronomical research in Canada, at the leading research university in the country, the University of Toronto.