How widespread are planets like Earth in our galaxy? And, these conditions that permit the evolution of life? To answer these questions is the mission of Plato (Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) of the European Space Agency ESA to be launched into space in 2024, contributing decisively.
In close collaboration with numerous European partners Germany takes on a leadership role: The Institute for Planetary Research of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Berlin leads the overall mission, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen the evaluation of the data in the Plato data center.
“Plato will discover planets like the Earth, which provide the necessary conditions for life,” says Prof. Laurent Gizon, Director at MPS. Thanks to the space missions Corot (ESA / CNES) and Kepler (NASA), there has been tremendous progress in the search for exoplanets in recent years.objective of the mission
However, these missions were not designed to find new worlds orbiting stars in our vicinity. Only Plato will be able to examine these stars and their planets. The main objective of the mission is to discover a twin Earth.
Gizon: “We will find planets orbiting their sun-like star in the habitable, the habitable zone: planet on whose surface water may be present and where perhaps even the development of life as we know it, possible would be. “
To achieve this ambitious goal, Plato is not equipped with one, but with 34 telescopes. For six years they will scan a large part of the sky and so capture the entire diversity of stars and planetary systems in our galaxy.
If an exoplanet considered before its star passes by in its orbit from the Earth, it attenuates the light from the star light. This connection will use Plato to detect exoplanets.data with the required accuracy
their radii to determine their masses and their age at first the same properties of the associated star must be known. Only asteroseismology, the science of stellar oscillations, these data can provide you with the necessary accuracy.
In the years leading up to the start of the probe, the MPS will call at its new location at the Göttingen North Campus the Plato data center to life. The center will work closely with other Plato data centers in Europe.
goal is to evaluate a million light curves of stars and to generate the star of them radius, mass and age. “This, Plato catalog ‘is invaluable for many future generations of astronomers,” says Gizon. “Especially because it will also contain the planet, where a further search for life is meaningful.”
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