PLATO: PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of Stars
PLATO is an ESA satellite
a number of small, optically fast, wide-field telescopes
To detect and characterise exoplanets through the transit signature, and to measure seismic oscillations of stars.
Large-amplitude libration orbit around Sun-Earth Lagrangian point, L2
Lifetime: 6 years minimum

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The project main steps


The PLATO project, is part of ESA's program Cosmic Vision 20152025 which is the current cycle of ESA's long-term planning for space science missions.

PLATO is the next generation planetary transit experiment; its objective is to characterize exoplanets and their host stars in the solar neighbourhood. Plato is the continuation of the two predecessor space missions: CoRoT, European mission realized under CNES contractorship and Kepler, a NASA mission. The major expected improvement is that PLATO will correct the main limitations of these two instruments by observing bright and near stars, typically with mV < 11 (apparent magnitude). Thus it will be able to combine the study of the planets with the stellar interiors thanks to two proven techniques: the transits for the planetary detection and the asteroseismology for stellar studies. This approach will also enable to complete our knowledge of the planetary systems thanks to measurements made by spectrographs on ground. Therefore we will be able to measure, with an unprecedented precision, all the fundamental parameters of these systems (star and planet(s)) and then to determine the structure of the planets: rock, gas, ocean, etc., to detect the eventual presence of an atmosphere, to know the age of the system, the precise movement of the planets around their star, but also the interaction processes between star and planet. The PLATO targets will also include a large number of very bright and nearby stars, with mV=8.

The main science goals of PLATO are:

  • the detection and characterization of exoplanetary systems of all kinds, including both the planets and their host stars, up to the domain of small telluric planets in habitable zone of Sun-like stars;
  • the identification of suitable targets for a more detailed future characterization, including a spectroscopic search for biomarkers in nearby habitable exoplanets.

The PLATO mission was subject to three independent studies, two by industrial contractors and one by the PLATO PayLoad Consortium (PPLC). All three studies have been running in parallel and were completed simultaneously at the end of summer, 2009. The three concepts resulting from these studies differ significantly from one to another, but have in common original optical designs with very wide fields-of-view, and overall large collecting areas. Wide fields-of-view are required to obtain large samples of bright stars, while large collecting areas are necessary to reach the desired photometric precision for the detection of Earth-sized planets. In all three concepts, this is achieved by using a collection of small, optically fast, wide-field telescopes, each with its own CCD-based focal plane. The light curves and centroids from all the stars observed by each individual telescope unit are transmitted to the ground at the required cadence, where they are co-added to reach the desired precision.

Latest update 24/02/2014
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PLATO Key Events
PLATO mission was selected as ESA's third medium-class science mission.
PLATO mission was proposed again to ESA as candidate to M3 missions in a new configuration.
ESA chose the two missions that will proceed further to implementation: Euclid and Solar Orbiter
ESA will chose up to two missions that will proceed further to implementation between PLATO, Solar Orbiter and Euclid
06/2010 - 06/2011
Definition Phase
11/2008 - 2/2009
Study Assessment Phase
11/2007 - 04/2008
Phase 0