Habited Exoplanet Research Measured by Eminence Stokes

HERMES is a team of students from the University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland (HES-SO) taking part in the 14th cycle of the REXUS/BEXUS programme.


Did you know that the polarization proprieties of light can be used to detect life? Recent research has shown that it is possible. Polarization is a property of light inaccessible to the naked eye but rich in information. Some of this information are the four Stokes parameters, which can be obtained when a picture is decomposed by a polarized camera. With the four Stokes parameters, biological presence can be determined. The experience is part of a bigger scientific program whose objective is detecting life on exoplanets by analysing Stokes parameters. The experiment is operational in a laboratory however, it needs a perfect environment. This is why we don’t expect to be able to detect life directly. We are going to analyse how the parameters such as clouds, forests, lakes, snow, humidity, aerosols, particles, temperature, distance to surface, are going to affect the results on the polarization. By comparison with results obtained in the laboratory, it will be possible to determine the effect of each of these parameters on the 4 Stokes parameters. Due to the images obtained during the experiment, we will be able to know what has influenced the measurements. These effects will help us understand in which conditions future measures can be done. Space missions often encounter unexpected conditions, to know how to adapt to them plays a big part in the success of the mission. To execute our experiment, we are going to design a box composed of two polarized cameras. The two cameras will be pointing at the Earth to be able to take pictures of its surface. The data will be postprocessed in order to see the different parameters affecting the polarization of the visible light. After the postprocessing, our results will be transferred to a group of scientists studying light polarization. In this way, our project is going to be helpful for the research of exoplanetary life detection.


HERMES is a group of HEPIA students who are participating in the REXUS/BEXUS programme.

The REXUS/BEXUS programme is realised under a bilateral Agency Agreement between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Swedish National Space Agency (SNSA). The Swedish share of the payload has been made available to students from other European countries through a collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). EuroLaunch, a cooperation between the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and the Mobile Rocket Base (MORABA) of DLR, is responsible for the campaign management and operations of the launch vehicles. Experts from DLR, SSC, ZARM and ESA provide technical support to the student teams throughout the project. REXUS and BEXUS are launched from SSC, Esrange Space Center in northern Sweden.



We frenquently publish about the team and our advancement of the projet


The HERMES team is composed of students in mechanics and microtechnology from HEPIA in Geneva.

We also have the support of our professors and several institutes and competence centers of our university.

For this project, we are working directly with researchers at the University of Bern (UNIBe).