The European Space Agency will be launching its PLATO mission in the distant space year of 2024, hunting for stars with life-supporting planets from the clear orbital skies. PLATO stands for Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars, which sounds best read to yourself in your finest whimsical Brian Cox impression.
The mission has two key concepts -- to find Earth-like planets orbiting stars and to learn more about how the planetary systems and conditions for life appeared out of nowhere during that big explosion thing that happened just before Jesus was born.
PLATO's optics consist of 34 small telescopes and cameras, which will scan half the night sky and track up to a million candidate stars for signs of planetary orbits. The ambition is to categorise thousands of possible Earth 2s that are positioned within the habitable zones around their suns, so that Richard Branson can start taking bookings for holidays to them and we can eventually ditch this burnt out husk of a planet for a new one. [ESA via The Verge]