Green light for DISH, the mission that will look for other habitable lands
06-20-2017

The Scientific Program Committee of the European Space Agency (ESA), meeting today at the European Space Astronomy Center, ESAC, near Madrid, has approved the construction of the mission PLATO, once completed three years of technical studies after its selection in February 2014. PLATO is the acronym of PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (Planetary transits and stellar oscillations), but it is also the name, in English, from the Greek philosopher Plato who studied the movement of the planets.

The PLATO mission will be the first to find and characterize planets similar to Earth, around stars similar to our Sun, and with a duration of their orbital periods close to the year. For this, PLATO will perform ultra-precise measurements of the luminous flux from several hundred thousand stars simultaneously, being able to detect minute variations in this flow, of up to 30 parts per million. With this precision, PLATO will have the ability, on the one hand, to detect the shadow of the planets that pass in front of the stars and, on the other hand, will be able to use the techniques of asteroseismology to characterize the properties of the stars of the planetary systems that discover themselves The observations that PLATO will make from space for several years will be complemented with measurements made from telescopes on Earth of the small displacement that the planets induce in their mother stars. By combining all the data it will be possible to know the size, density and age of the planets, and you can even obtain information about the possible existence of atmospheres or the presence of moons around them. & Nbsp;

To achieve these objectives PLATO will be equipped with 26 small format telescopes, each with 4 CCD detectors, with a total of 80 million pixels. PLATO will observe the same stars for long periods of time, up to 3 years, from its definitive orbital position at the point known as Lagrange L2, located beyond the Sun-Earth line, and located 1.5 million km from the Earth. & Nbsp;

This mission will be an important milestone in the Spanish technological participation in European space missions, providing the on-board computers (Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA) - University of Granada (UGR)) , the power supply units of these computers (Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC)), the structure of the focal planes of the telescopes, together with the optical verification of part of the telescopes (National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA) - Astrobiology Center (CAB), in collaboration with several companies in the aerospace sector and with funding from the State Plan for R & D + i managed by the State Research Agency (Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness). & nbsp;

J. Miguel Mas Hesse, coordinator of the INTA / CAB contribution, points out that "many years of work have been necessary since PLATO was proposed in 2007 to reach the level of technological design sufficient for ESA to have decided to give final approval for the construction of PLATO, which we hope to launch into space throughout the year 2026. " & nbsp;

For David Barrado, responsible for the scientific contribution of the CAB to the mission, "PLATO will change our paradigm, since it will allow the detection of true twin planets of the Solar System, including planets with conditions analogous to the Land. We can expect that if the conditions are similar to those of our planet, the probability that some kind of life has arisen in them will be very significant ". & nbsp;

Figure: Image representing the variety of planetary systems that PLATO will discover and whose properties it will characterize (© Consorcio PLATO-DLR).

 

Fuente: UCC-CAB

 

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