Construction of Europe’s exoplanet hunter begins
ESA’S Plato mission is set to study planets outside of our Solar System
At the 69th International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that construction of their new space venture has begun. The Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (Plato) mission will seek out undiscovered rocky planets orbiting Sun-like stars. In particular, Plato will be looking within the habitable zones of stars, in which liquid water can exist on a planet’s surface. At the congress, German technology corporation OHB System AG were announced as the prime contractors of the project. “Plato is a next-generation exoplanet mission that will monitor thousands of bright stars over a large area of the sky in search of tiny, regular dips in their brightness caused by transiting planets,” said Ana Heras, Plato project scientist at ESA, in a press release. Plato will be able to record these ‘dips’ in light and locate the potential exoplanets passing through the Sun’s light. This interstellar investigator will be multipurpose; it will also investigate the host star of any exoplanets found. The star’s mass, size and age will be measured upon any discoveries, along with any seismic activity in order for scientists to gain a better understanding of its evolution. Plato is predicted to be launched in 2026.