Europe to Build New Planet-Hunting Space Telescope

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By Parismita Goswami | February 20, 2014 5:20 PM EST

European Space Agency (ESA) is on a mission to hunt for other Earth like planets outside our solar system. ESA on their ambitious space mission hopes to collect data on planets with Earth like qualities and near located stars.

ESA will commence their three-year mission, known as PLATO on a Soyuz rocket in 2024. Planetary Transits and Oscillations of Stars (PLATO) is a new generation telescope and is made of a set of 34 telescopes, which will allow monitoring of planets without interruption from the sun or earth's atmosphere.

PLATO is expected to cost more than 800 million euros, including hardware contributions from other states.

More than 1000 planets outside our solar systems have been found by astronomers but none of these have shown earth like qualities such as size and distance from the sun.

"This is fantastic news for Europe, PLATO will allow the first systematic survey of nearby planets for indications from advanced life forms (as well as slime). A few years ago this would have been science fiction and now its coming to pass as science fact," said Dr. Don Pollacco, researcher at the University of Warwick researcher and lead at the Plato Science Consortium, according to Phy.orgPlato will be our first attempt to find nearby habitable planets around Sun-like stars that we can actually examine in sufficient detail to look for life," 

"Nearly all the small transiting planets discovered so far have been beyond our technology to characterize. Plato will be a game-changer, allowing many Earth-like planets to be detected and confirmed and their atmospheres examined for signs of life. Plato planets will allow us to develop and test theories of planet evolution, understanding the type of small planets in the Universe and the real frequency of Earth-like planets," BBC News quoted Pollacco.

The aim behind this array is to investigate some of its nearest and brightest stars. The new mission will help scientists study the extrasolar planets or exoplanets. ESA will collect data including the size, age and mass of the discovered planet systems. 

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Europe to Build New Planet-Hunting Space Telescope
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