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  • ESA Names Supplier of CCDs for Plato
Nov 2010
NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands, Nov. 11, 2010 — The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded e2v a contract to develop a CCD imaging sensor for the organization’s Plato (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) space science mission. The aim of Plato is to search for transiting planets within the Milky Way galaxy to understand the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life.

An artist’s rendition of the proposed Plato spacecraft. (Image: ESA)

Plato aims to detect planets from their transits across their host star and to characterize their host stars by studying their oscillations. In order to achieve this aim, the mission proposes to fly a satellite with a focal plane of up to 34 minitelescopes, each containing four large-area back-illuminated CCDs to provide ultrahigh-precision photometry. If successful, the satellite will have nearly 0.9 m2 of image sensors and will be by far the largest image sensor focal plane ever flown.

Once launched, the satellite will orbit the sun 1.5 million km beyond the Earth for a period of six to eight years. During that time, at least 40 percent of the sky could be surveyed – a magnitude greater than previous space missions.

The mission is in a competitive definition phase with two other ESA Cosmic Vision programs, Solar Orbiter and Euclid, for which the Chelmsford, UK-based e2v also has won a development contract. The two successful missions will be selected in June 2011 and will be carried forward into implementation, leading to a launch in 2018.

“The Plato mission will study complete planetary systems,” said Anamarija Stankov of the ESA’s Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics Section. “The planets and their host stars will be observed together with the same techniques and this will enable us to understand how planets are formed and how they evolve.”

“E2v is very pleased to be developing high-performance image sensors for Plato,” said the company’s marketing and applications manager, Jon Kemp. “If it is selected next year, the largest focal plane to fly will again demonstrate that e2v is the world’s leading supplier of image sensors to space programs.”

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The science of the measurement of light intensity, where "light'' refers to the total integrated range of radiation to which the eye is sensitive. It is distinguished from radiometry in which each separate wavelength in the electromagnetic spectrum is detected and measured, including the ultraviolet and infrared.
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