PLATO: looking for habitable planets

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

PLATO 2.0 (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) has recently been selected for European Space Agency’s (ESA) M3 launch opportunity (2022/24). It is a medium class mission within the framework of the ESA Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program. PLATO 2.0 will discover many potentially habitable planets. Presently, more than 1700 exoplanets with secure identifications are known and many others are unconfirmed planet candidates. PLATO 2.0 consists of 32 telescopes operating in white light and two additional fast cameras with colour filters. This multi-telescope design will allow a large photometric dynamic range. The mission lifetime will be 6 years, with a possible extension of 2 years. In total, about 50% of the sky will be covered.

The involvement of our country, especially in the fields of electronic systems and optics, is very relevant. The Italian contribution is funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), which also provides a segment of the PLATO Data Center, managed by the ASI Science Data Center (ASDC). Italian researchers contribute to the PLATO Mission Consortium, providing the scientific coordination of two important elements of the Payload – the Telescope Optical Units (TOUs) and the Instrument Control Unit (ICU) – and participating to the Science Preparation Management (PSPM), i.e., the activities required for the preparation of the scientific programme and the assessment of the mission performance. Almost a hundred of Italian scientists, mainly working at the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF), are involved in the project.

We had the great pleasure to speak with Isabella Pagano (INAF Catania), member of the Mission Consortium Board (PMCB) and scientific responsible for the INAF participation in PLATO 2.0.

(Continua su Science on the Net)

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