New multi-million pound telescope will hunt for new planets

Will they discover aliens?

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The European Space Agency (ESA) will build and launch a new space telescope to hunt for habitable planets in deep space.

Scientists from the University of Warwick involved with the construction say the new telescope, known as PLATO, could discover aliens.

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PLATO (Planitary Transits and Oscillations of stars) will launch in 2026 with the aim of scanning planets in the so-called Goldilocks zone of distant stars.

Consisting of 26 individual telescopes it will join NASA's Kepler mission and is set to cost the ESA a staggering €600m (£536m).

Credits: Getty

An artist's conception of one possible appearance of the nearest rocky exoplanet found to date outside our solar system

"The launch of PLATO will give us the opportunity to contribute to some of the biggest discoveries of the next decade answering fundamental questions about our existence, and could eventually lead to the detection of extra-terrestrial life," said Professor Don Pollacco from the University of Warwick.

As well as searching for rocky alien planets, PLATO will monitor host stars in order to determine their size, age and seismic activity.

The work of the new satellite will help scientists understand exoplanets and the systems they belong to.

Artist's concept provided by NASA April 18, 2013, depicts NASA's Kepler mission's smallest habitable zone planet

Exoplanets are discovered by looking for dips in brightness from stars as each world passes in front of it. PLATO will be launched 1.5 million kilometres into space and will monitor thousands of stars across a vast patch of the night sky.

So far NASA's Kepler mission has discovered more than 3,400 exoplanets.

Images from space by astronaut Andre Kuipers

Images from space by astronaut Andre Kuipers


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