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ESA selects exoplanet observatory mission for development
Posted: Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 6:54 AM ET (1154 GMT)
PLATO spacecraft illustration (ESA/Thales Alenia Space) The European Space Agency announced Wednesday that it has chosen a proposal to build a spacecraft to search for extrasolar planets, with launch scheduled in about a decade. The Planetary Transits and Oscillation of stars, or PLATO, mission, will feature a spacecraft with 34 independent small telescopes and cameras. The spacecraft will be able to study up to one million stars over half the sky, looking for telltale periodic decreases in brightness caused by exoplanets transiting these stars, a technique used by NASA's Kepler spacecraft and others. It will also monitor oscillations in those stars, providing information on the stars' ages and sizes. The medium-class PLATO mission, selected over several other competing proposals, will launch by 2024 on a Soyuz rocket. The missions' estimated cost to ESA and member states is about one billion euros (US$1.35 billion).
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