This year ESA will select the themes for the L2 and L3 missions. And although the final and official decision is still pending, we heard already a few weeks ago about the status selection. The best bet is on High energy physics and gravitational physics.
This means for the pending M3 selection the stake on exoplanets gets higher. If no exoplanet mission is selected in M3, ESA will miss a great chance to get a leading role in this topic of high public interest and let the US do the space based exploration of extrasolar worlds. The small ESA mission Cheops will not be able compensate for this.
In a more global view, i have to say the chances to find biosignatures like ozon on rocky extrasolar worlds during my lifetime will drop dramatically if PLATO will not be selected. As Echo will only be able to observe larger gasous planets and no other large mission to directly observe small extrasolar worls is planned at the moment, PLATO is the only chance to find small planets which can then be followed up with JWST and the future ELT instruments.
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.
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
You could read this in the press already. so i will only give some links. Last week two papers were put on arxiv.org [Schmitt et al.] [Cabrera et al.]. I’m Co-author of the second.
The offical press release [englisch] of the DLR was followed by many articles as you can see.
Today the PLATO 2.0 science workshop at ESTEC starts. It will last until Wednesday. Today the focus is on overview about the mission, and the payload (we have the first prototype of the optical unit here). Later we will hear about Ground based follow up and other missions and projects (CoRoT, CHEOPS, TESS, Kepler, Gaia) and spectroscopic follow up.
(To be updated…)
ARKYD, the first crowed funded space telescope (to be build) has reached its goal of collecting 1M$. This means it will be built. They now extended their goal to 2M$ if they reach this goal they will work on the stabiliy of the satellite so they can use this 20cm aperture telescope for exoplanet science. They want to build on the cubesat idea by sara seager.
So lets see, it 10 days left and still a long way to go to the 2M$ but maybe ….
The deadlines for the submission of all documents for the M3 selection is getting closer, and so are the according workshops. Deadlines for abstract submission and registration are coming.
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, 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.