Europe approves project to find Earth-like planets

June 21, 2017 10:30 pm

This artist rendering provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows some of the 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth size and in the habitable zone of their star identified by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Photo by AP)

has given the green light to a project to find habitable planets like Earth in other star systems.
The University of Warwick, whose scientists will participate in the project, said in a statement on Wednesday that the mission “could eventually even lead to the detection of extra-terrestrial life.”
The statement said a committee of the European Space Agency (ESA), meeting in Madrid, approved PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) on Tuesday, which means “it can move from a blueprint into construction.”
The England-based university said, “The PLATO mission will address fundamental questions such as ‘how common are Earth-like planets?’ and ‘is our solar system unusual or even unique?’.”
With 26 onboard telescopes, PLATO is scheduled to begin monitoring thousands of stars over a large area of sky in 2026, according to the ESA. The mission will be launched 1.5 million kilometers (about 932,000 miles) into space.
The deep-space observatory is estimated to cost about 600 million euros ($668 million).
The ESA’s mission will join NASA’s Kepler observatory in a dedicated search for exoplanets revolving around stars other than our Sun.
A project dubbed LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), tasked with observing from space gravitational waves, which are created when black holes collide, was also provisionally approved by the ESA on Tuesday.
The mission, which is estimated to cost about one billion euros, is expected to be launched in 2034, if it receives final approval.
The project will include free-floating detectors on three craft, separated by 2.5 million kilometers in a triangular formation, following Earth in its orbit around the Sun.
The ESA said a final approval will depend on the availability of technology and finance.
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