PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) is the selected M3 mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision program, to be launched in 2026. Its objective is to find and study a large number of extrasolar planetary systems, with emphasis on the properties of terrestrial planets in the habitable zones around solar-like stars.

Image: ESA

PLATO has also been designed to investigate seismic activity in stars, enabling the precise characterization of the planet host star, including its age. The primary goal of PLATO is to open a new way in exoplanetary science, by detecting terrestrial exoplanets in the habitable zone of solar-type stars and characterizing their bulk properties. PLATO will provide the key information (planet radii, mean densities, stellar irradiation, and architecture of planetary systems) needed to determine the habitability of these unexpectedly diverse new worlds.

PLATO will assemble the first catalogue of confirmed and characterized planets in habitable zones with known mean densities, compositions, and evolutionary ages/stages. It is foreseen that the PLATO catalogue will consist of thousands of characterized planets of all types, 85,000 stars with accurately known ages and masses, and 1,000,000 high-precision stellar light curves.

IEEC’s contribution

The IEEC, through the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) and the Institute of Cosmos Sciences (UB), is leading a workpackage that has as its main task to distribute and optimize the observations of transiting exoplanet candidates among the different facilities composing the ground-based follow-up effort. We will use the proven expertise in sophisticated scheduling algorithms, in particular using artificial intelligence technology. The exoplanet candidates received from the PLATO Data Center will be distributed among the different facilities according to the relevant parameters and to the availability of observing time so that the different validation and confirmation steps can be optimally performed.

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Mission link

Generalitat de CatalunyaUniversitat de BarcelonaUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaUniversitat Politècnica de CatalunyaConsejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasCentres de Recerca de Catalunya