Complementary Science

In addition to its focus on relatively bright stars, one major advantage of PLATO over the CoRoT and Kepler space missions is its ability to observe in many directions on the sky. This will enable us to sample a much wider variety of time-variable phenomena in various populations of the Galaxy than was hitherto possible. Moreover, PLATO’s asteroseismic characterisation of stellar ensembles, binaries, clusters and populations will be a significant addition to the Gaia data. This capability will obviously give rise to a very rich legacy for stellar and galactic physics, promising major breakthroughs in a variety of subjects. Specifically, PLATO will provide unprecedented advancements in:

  • Stellar structure and evolution
    • Low and intermediate-mass red giants
    • Hot OB sub-dwarfs stars
    • Massive stars
    • White Dwarfs
    • Probing angular momentum transport using gravity modes
    • Early stellar evolution – the pre-main sequence
  • Asteroseismology of globular and young open clusters
  • Probing the structure and evolution of the Milky Way
  • Accretion physics near compact objects
  • Classical pulsators
  • Classical eclipsing binaries, beaming binaries and low-mass stellar and sub-stellar companions

Distribution on the galactic plane of the red giants with asteroseismic characterisation  from the light curves obtained in the CoRoT exofield for six long runs: LRa01 (red), LRa02 (yellow), LRa03 (orange), LRc01 (blue), LRc02 (green), LRc03 (cyan). From Miglio et al. (2012b).



Apart from the above themes in stellar and galactic physics that PLATO will address, various additional subjects are within reach, including common-envelope and Roche-Lobe overflow evolution of close binaries, tidal asteroseismology, and the mass-loss and structure of stars rotating at critical velocity. In some favourable cases, PLATO might observe the microlensing amplification of massive objects eclipsing bright companions (Maeder 1973; Muirhead et al. 2013), super-novae, GRBs, and even microlensing of black holes (Cieplak & Griest 2013), as well as Kuiper-belt and Oort clouds objects in our solar system. PLATO will also make high precision measurements of a small, well-selected sample of compact objects, both galactic and extragalactic, where the fast cadence and precision will benefit the interpretation of poorly understood phenomena.




PLATO – Revealing habitable worlds around solar-like stars
Definition Study Report, ESA-SCI(2017)1, April 2017