PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) was selected by ESA's Science Programme Committee on February 19, 2014 for implementation as part of its Cosmic Vision 2015–25 Programme.
The mission will address two key themes of Cosmic Vision: what are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life, and how does the Solar System work?
PLATO will monitor relatively nearby stars, searching for tiny, regular dips in brightness as their planets transit in front of them, temporarily blocking out a small fraction of the starlight. By using 34 separate small telescopes and cameras, PLATO will search for planets around up to a million stars spread over half of the sky. It will also investigate seismic activity in the stars, enabling a precise characterisation of the host sun of each planet discovered, including its mass, radius and age. When coupled with ground-based radial velocity observations, PLATO's measurements will allow a planet's mass and radius to be calculated, and therefore its density, providing an indication of its composition.
The mission will identify and study thousands of exoplanetary systems, with an emphasis on discovering and characterising Earth-sized planets and super-Earths in the habitable zone of their parent star – the distance from the star where liquid surface water could exist. Its discoveries will help to place our own Solar System's architecture in the context of other planetary systems.
This will be the first time since mission selection that people from all elements of the consortium (Payload, PDC, and PSPM) will come together. The purpose of the meeting is to present the status of these consortium elements and our plans for the B1 Phase activities.
Due to room restrictions, we have to limit the attendance of this meeting to about 80 people. Attendance by invitation only.
In addition to the kick-off meeting, the Science Team is organizing a PLATO 2.0 Science meeting which will be open to the full consortium and the community. The place foreseen is Italy. The exact date and place will be fixed shortly, but the approximate timeline is December 2014. More soon.
We are looking forward to seeing you all for the kick-off in Berlin!