PLATO adopted

This week the ESA M3 mission PLATO has been officially adopted in ESA Science Programme.

PLATO will allow us to continue the quest for rocky planets in the habitable zone. In contrast to Kepler, PLATO will focus on brighter stars, allowing for targets for future follow up, exact mass determination and even spectroscopic characterization of their atmosphere. Due to the high photometric precission and high cadence observations over long time scales will also allow us to use asteroseismology to precisly determine mass and radius of the planets host stars, which again will reflect on our knowledge of the planetary parameters.

Unfortunately PLATO will launch not before 2026. But until then other promissing missions will keep us busy. TESS, a NASA maission, will go for transiting planets on short orbits around nearby stars, CHEOPS, an ESA S mission, will allow us to follow up on already known planetary systems, JWST and the ELT will also get operational which will be on the forefront to further characterize known planets, analyzing their atmospheres.

K2 still producing nice results

K2, the second life of the Kepler satellite is stil observing and producing nice results. I myself, am part of the KESPRINT consortium (an international collaboration joined from the former KEST and ESPRINT consortium). Analysing the publically available K2 data, we look for promising planet candidates and confirm their planetary nature and determine their masses by radial velocity follow up observations.

Looking at ADS today, I saw we were quite productive. As this list only shows K2 planets confirmed by our consortium you can imagen the number of characzterised planets detected by the K2 mission to be much higher.

Here is a list of some papers related to the KEST and KESPRINT Consortium:

  • Gandolfi et al. 2017: The transiting multi-planet system HD3167: a 5.7 MEarth Super-Earth and a 8.3 MEarth mini-Neptune
  • Guenther et al. 2017: K2-106, a system containing a metal rich planet and a planet of lower density
  • Nespral et al. 2017: Mass determination of K2-19b and K2-19c from radial velocities and transit timing variations
  • Fridlund et al. 2017: EPIC 210894022b – A short period super-Earth transiting a metal poor, evolved old star
  • Nowak et al. 2017: EPIC 219388192b—An Inhabitant of the Brown Dwarf Desert in the Ruprecht 147 Open Cluster
  • Eigmüller et al. 2017: K2-60b and K2-107b. A Sub-Jovian and a Jovian Planet from the K2 Mission
  • Barragán et al. 2017: EPIC 218916923 b: a low-mass warm Jupiter on a 29-day orbit transiting an active K0 V star
  • Smith et al. 2017: K2-99: a subgiant hosting a transiting warm Jupiter in an eccentric orbit and a long-period companion
  • Barragán et al. 2016: EPIC 211391664b: A 32 M Neptune-size Planet in a 10 Day Orbit Transiting an F8 Star
  • Grizwa et al. 2016: K2-31b, a Grazing Transiting Hot Jupiter on a 1.26-day Orbit around a Bright G7V Star
  • Johnson et al. 2016: Two Hot Jupiters from K2 Campaign 4


SSAC recommended PLATO

The rumours of the last days now got out… A BBC article now states that PLATO is in the pole position for the M3 selection. It is a needed step in exoplanet science and after the odd M1/M2 selection process, it was well deserved. Of course I’m biased, but i have to say that the science case of PLATO is extremly compelling, and without PLATO the future in Exoplanet science would be much less exciting. With PLATO the search for the second habitable planet goes into the right direction.

More about PLATO can be found on my site and here and here.

Another blog entry about the recommendation can be found here.


The ressurection of Kepler

A very nice article about the possible future of Kepler can be found here.

It seems they have good idea what is still possible to do with Kepler. and thats much. It will be possible to have pointing in the ecliptic plane of about 40-80 days each. So Kepler will not be able to continue its long pointing but can instead search with short pointings at different positions of the sky for shorter period planets. So it will be more like CoRoT, but with higher accuracy and not the limitations to the eyes of CoRoT but to the ecliptic. The final decission on the future of Kepler will be made in mid-2014.

Kepler Science Conference 2

This week the Second Kepler Science Conference takes place. We already saw in the last days many Kepler related publications going online on astroph. First the KOI 351 seven-planet-system was announced by two groups. Last week the Radial Velocity measurements by two groups (using Keck and Harps North) of Kepler 78b were reported giving it a mass similar to the Earth.

Now a publication about the frequency of earth sized planets based on Kepler data ist out.

Lets see what else will be presented until Friday




end of an era?

The first two space missions for detectiing transiting exoplanets have come to an end. Kepler, a space telescope by NASA has some technical problems with one wheel and CoRoT the European space mission led by CNES is also dead.

It have been exiting times with many new and intriguing discoveries. But the discoveries of CoRoT and Kepler show also the way that needs to be taken with the next missions for transiting planets. Until the next missions will come, there is still much data analysis to be done for all the Kepler and CoRoT light curves. So the end of the era of CoRoT and Kepler hopefully will just be the start of the next exciting one.

If we look at already selected missions (TESS, CHEOPS) and proposed missions (PLATO2.0, ECHO) this is what we have:

TESS a mission selected by NASA for implementation and launch in 2017 will focus on bright targets as will PLATO the mission proposed to ESA for launch in 2022 / 2024. Both these mission will detect transiting planets around nearby stars. This will allow spectroscopic follow up of such planets with future instruments as the E-ELT. TESS will conduct an all-sky survey mainly detecting close in planets with small periods (for most stars 27 days coverage is the limit), PLATO will stare on selected fields for longer times, thus finding long period planets.

Next to these two detection missions two missions for characterizing transiting exoplanets are in the loop. CHEOPS is already been selected  by ESA. It is a S-class mission which will reobserve systems known to host a planet (detected by RV or by transit method). CHEOPS will do photometric observations of these objects to search for not yet detected transits or to get more precise parameters by better transit light curves. The second mission on characterization of transiting planets is ECHO, a proposed ESA mission (launch in 2022 / 2024) for spectroscopic follow up of transiting Jupiter-sized planets.

Next to all these space missions the ground based surveys will be ongoing and complement the search for new close in transiting planets. With new surveys like NGTS we will get down to Neptune sized planets with periods up to ten days.

So even with CoRoT and Kepler gone the story of transiting planets will go on, and hopefully reach new dimensions.


PLATO now official M3 candidate mission

PLATO, the satellite mission for the detection of transiting planets around bright stars, is now a candidate mission for the M3 selection. The selection will probably happen in early 2014. With PLATO it might be possible to detect another earth sized planet around a sun-like star in the habitable zone. That means we might be able to find a earth twin during my lifetime.