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ESA to bolster Europe’s planet hunting effort with two new spacecrafts

The European Space Agency plans to launch its own exoplanets hunting spacecraft.

Concept renders of the PLATO spacecrafts.

The hunt for habitable planets outside our solar system is underway.  Although most of us will probably never be able to see man populate another Earth-like planet, it’s exciting to know that maybe our descendants might.

Resources utilized for discovering and observing planets are still limited, however, but the European Space Agency (ESA) is hoping they can add to that with the PLATO spacecraft.  Set for takeoff in 2024, two PLATO spacecrafts will be boosted into space, where it will sit at an optimal position between the Earth and the sun for six years to observe possibly habitable planets.

The possibilities of a new home are out there.

According to the news release, the spacecrafts will use the ‘transit’ method, which spots out tiny dips in brightness of distant stars as planets are passing or rotating by, for hunting these exoplanets.  The ESA estimates that they will be able to discover thousands of exoplanets utilizing the proposed PLATO observatories.

Mounted on the PLATO spacecraft will be 34 separate small telescopes and cameras that will ‘search for planets around up to a million stars spread over half the sky.’

“PLATO, with its unique ability to hunt for Sun-Earth analogue systems, will build on the expertise accumulated with a number of European missions,” said Alvaro Giménez, ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.

PLATO will be catapulted into space using a Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou.

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