Plato is Europe’s Planet Hunting Telescope mission. Plato spacecraft is a space-based observatory to search for planets orbiting alien stars. To be launched in 2024.
Picture: Exoplanetary Systems
Plato is ESA’s third medium-class science mission.
PLATO stands for ‘Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars’. Plato is also the name of the famous Greek philosopher in Classical Greece.
PLATO will be launched on a Soyuz ST rocket from Europe’s Kourou Spaceport in 2024. The duration of the mission will be 6 years. Plato spacecraft will be located at L2, a virtual point in space about 1.5 million km beyond Earth as seen from the Sun.
The aim of the PLATO mission is to:
- To identify and study thousands of exoplanetary systems.
- To discover and characterise Earth-sized planets and super-Earths in the habitable zone of their parent star
- To monitor relatively nearby stars, searching for tiny, regular dips in brightness as their planets transit in front of them, temporarily blocking out a small fraction of the starlight.
- To investigate seismic activity in the stars, enabling a precise characterization of the host sun of each planet discovered, including its mass, radius and age.
- To determine what are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life
- To study and how does the Solar System work?
The contractor is Arianespace.
* The mission was first proposed in 2007.
* In February 2011 the European Space Agency choose four candidates for the 3rd medium class mission (M3) with a proposed target launch date of 2024. The four other mission concepts investigated were:
- EChO (the Exoplanet CHaracterisation Observatory)
- LOFT (the Large Observatory For x-ray Timing)
- MarcoPolo-R (to collect and return a sample from a near-Earth asteroid)
- STE-Quest (Space-Time Explorer and QUantum Equivalence principle Space Test).
* In February 2014 Plato mission was selected by ESA’s Science Programme Committee for implementation as part of its Cosmic Vision 2015–25 Programme.
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* Other interesting European future space missions include Solar Orbiter which will study the Sun and solar wind from a distance of less than 50 million km and Euclid will focus on dark matter, dark energy and the structure of the Universe.
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Plato Spacecraft Links:
ESA Selects Planet-hunting PLATO mission: ESA – 24 February 2014
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