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PLATO: the habitable zone explorer

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With CoRoT, Kepler, K2, and now TESS , there is a long lineage of outstanding space missions dedicated to exoplanet science. While NASA have led the field in recent years, it is once again ESA ’s turn to push the study of transiting exoplanets in new, exciting directions. PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) is ESA ’s M3 mission. Due for launch in Q4 2026 , it will search for terrestrial exoplanets around sun-like stars at orbital distances up to and including the habitable zone. Using photometric transit observations and asteroseismology from the spacecraft, combined with additional, comprehensive follow-up observations, PLATO will provide key information (e.g. planetary masses, radii, and bulk densities; orbital periods; stellar irradiance levels; system architectures) needed to characterise the bulk properties and system architectures of hundreds of rocky, icy, and gas giant planets, and to determine the habitability of these diverse new worlds.

I will give an historical background to PLATO , showing how we ended up at the current design, and also discuss the scientific rationale for PLATO , including why it is a unique mission that will give us insights that neither Kepler nor TESS have or will be able to provide. Finally, I will also show the current mission design and give latest status of the missions’ development.

This talk is part of the Exoplanet Meetings series.

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