A step forward for the discovery of exoplanets! ESA has given the green light to the PLATO mission. See here

14/01/2022
Credit: ESA
Credit: ESA

A step forward for the discovery of exoplanets! The PLATO mission for the discovery of new exoplanets has just received the green light from ESA, after the essential revision, which ended on January 11, 2022. The review verified the maturity of the entire spacecraft (the spacecraft platform and payload module) said ESA in a post. Thus, through this successful review, ESA is confident that the spacecraft has solid payload interfaces.

PLATO's last step will be to use its 26 state-of-the-art cameras to discover and explore new exoplanets (planets outside the Solar System). Many other revisions of the spacecraft and components have been made between July-December 2021, all revisions being made by teams of over 100 people, all from ESA. The teams were divided into two work panels: one for the spacecraft and one for the payload. 

The evaluation committee took place on January 11, 2022, shortly after, they approving the continuation of the PLATO mission. At the committee meeting, all the data was gathered on how the spacecraft works, the mission and including its camera. Everything was going well, so the continuation of the mission was approved.

After the approval, ESA breathed a sigh of relief that the thermo-elastic of the optical bench, which houses the cameras, was working properly, all the tests showed that. And the results are very clear, due to the fact that they were analyzed by a new technique, created by the main contractor of the spacecraft, OHB System AG.

"Plato continues a European tradition of excellence in all areas of space science," said Filippo Marliani, project manager of Plato at ESA. "The mission will serve the science community to gather invaluable knowledge of planets in our galaxy, beyond our own solar system. The successful completion of the critical milestone and the formal start of the second phase of this extraordinary mission constitute an important boost of positive energy for the next challenges to be tackled with our industrial, institutional and academic partners."

Credit: ESA
Credit: ESA

ESA claims that the launch of the PLATO mission, the next telescope after the James Webb Telescope (JWST), will be sometime in late 2026, with tests to be performed on the spacecraft and many other verifications of the entire mission. PLATO will reach the same distance that Webb is now from Earth. Specifically, the mission will go to Lagrange 2 (L2), a point located 1.5 million kilometers from Earth (about 1 million miles from Earth), where Webb has almost arrived. 

The European Space Agency claims that PLATO will be able to see more than 200,000 stars from that point during nominal four-year operation, looking for regular drops in their light caused by a planet's transit on the star's disk. All the analyzes that the mission will carry out will help to determine precisely the properties of the exoplanets and their host stars, according to the European Space Agency.

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 14 January 2022, at 04:30 am Los Angeles time

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