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Stellar Science

While Exoplanet Science is the focus of PLATO, from the start the mission has been designed for both exoplanet discovery and Stellar Science. This branch of the PLATO Science Management (PSM) is responsible for the development of both theory and modelling of stellar physics, with the goal of optimising PLATO's scientific return.

Organisation chart for WP12, Stellar Science, one of the major branches of the PSM

(Stellar Science work breakdown - click to enlarge)

The goal of the Stellar Science activities is to develop and provide procedures (both methods and algorithms) related to the stellar physics programme, that can then be implemented by the PLATO Data Centre (PDC). In order to accurately measure radii, masses, ages, chemical compositions, rotation, and limb-darkening of planet host stars, methods specifically adapted to PLATO data must be developed. As well as the implications for stellar physics, this work is important for estimating the impact of uncertainties in stellar physics on our knowledge of planet hosting stars, and therefore on planet parameters. Know the star, know the planet.

The work of the Stellar Science team will be grounded in our knowledge of stellar physics, but will require a better understanding of stellar structure and evolution, as well as a more detailed modelling of stellar activity. These activities will benefit from the legacies of CoRoT and KEPLER, and from the results of the Gaia mission. One of these legacies, particularly from Kepler, is work on asteroseismology; PLATO will continue to improve our understanding of this fundamental aspect of stellar physics.

In particular, work will focus on:

  • Production of grids of validated stellar evolution models. This will include the most recently modelled physical ingredients (e.g. rotation, internal waves, magnetic fields).
  • Production of grids of validated model atmospheres. This will include the most recently modelled physical ingredients. The aim is to determine stellar parameters, such as chemical composition, and to produce detailed and accurate boundaries to stellar models. Specific studies of surface effects on stellar oscillations will also be carried out.
  • Production of validated, seismic forward and inversion techniques. These will be specifically adapted to PLATO data, and developed in order to reach the level of accuracy necessary to the mission's main goals.
  • Production of validated models describing all aspects of stellar activity, including interactions with the stars' surroundings.

Visit the PSM Stellar Science website here.

As with the other branches of the PSM, several of the sub-branches of Stellar Science have additional levels of structure. These are shown below.

"Stellar Models" (WP121) has additional structure related to the development of one-dimensional stellar models (click to enlarge).

Organisation chart for WP121, Stellar Models

"Power Spectrum Fitting Tools" (WP128) has additional structure related to tools for fitting stellar oscillation modes (click to enlarge).

Organisation chart for WP128, Power Spectrum Fitting