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Astronomers Find Habitable Earth-like Planet
April 25, 2007
ESO 3.6-m telescope team discover super-Earth orbiting red dwarf star.

Deflector Shields Up!
April 21, 2007
Experimental magnetic shield to protect astronauts from space radiation.

Swarms of Nano-nauts
April 18, 2007
New breed of planetary explorers: tiny, shape-shifting devices carried on the wind like dust.

One Year at Venus
April 13, 2007
Venus Express probes planetary atmosphere and searches for surface volcanoes.

Snowball Melted
April 9, 2007
Warm spells in ancient ice age - new evidence suggests.

Assessing Aurora
April 7, 2007
Ambitious European solar system exploration mission. Man on Mars by 2030s?

Mars 500
April 6, 2007
Crew of 6 on a 500 day mission to Mars (simulated).

Fingerprinting the Milkyway
March 25, 2007
Stars' chemical signatures show shared points of origin.

  • SMART Lunar Bases
  • March 9, 2007
  • SMART-1 views the edge of Luna Incognita: Mars on the Moon?



COROT Sets Its Sights on the Stars

COROT, due for launch in late 2006, will be the first spacecraft devoted to the search for rocky planets, similar to our own Earth. It will look for the tiny drop in light caused by a planet as it slips across the face of its parent star.
Credit: CNES/D.Ducros

COROT – Convection, Rotation, and planetary Transits -- is a space telescope designed to search for extrasolar planets and to study stars.

The extrasolar planets will reveal themselves by transiting their star -- when a planet crosses in front of its star, it blocks some of the starlight that reaches us. Because the planet will have to cross in front of its star from our viewpoint, COROT will not be able to detect planets that orbit their stars at inclination angles not observable from Earth.

So far, most of the over 200 extrasolar planets found to date are massive gas giants like Jupiter. Astronomers hope planetary transit hunts like the COROT mission will find rocky worlds about the size of Earth. COROT will be able to spot short-period transits of 50 days or less, so only planets orbiting close to their stars will be discovered by this mission.

COROT will observe about 120,000 stars. Astronomers expect to find between 10 to 40 rocky worlds, as well as many gas giants, in each star field that COROT will observe. Every 150 days COROT will move to conduct new observations in a different star field.

COROT captured its first image while viewing the constellation of the Unicorn near Orion.
Credit: CNES

COROT also will help astronomers learn more about the physics of stars by studying “starquakes” -- acoustical waves generated from a star’s interior that ripple across the surface and alter the star’s brightness. The nature of the ripples will allow astronomers to calculate the star's precise mass, age and chemical composition.

The COROT mission is led by the French national space agency, CNES. ESA provided the optics for the telescope, tested the payload, and is providing support throughout the mission.

The COROT satellite was launched December 27, 2006, and “first light,” when the protective cover of the telescope was opened, occurred on January 17, 2007. The telescope began its first observing run on Feb 8. The mission is planned to last for two and a half years.

COROT stories
Opening an Eye to the Stars
Rocky Worlds

Transiting planet stories
Water in Extrasolar Planet’s Atmosphere
EPOXI to Stick with Deep Impact
Light from Alien Worlds
Sweeping for Planets
SuperWASP Hunting
Puffed Planets
Draconian Planet
Like Planet, Like Sun
Planet Trawling
The One-and-a-Half percent Solution
First Light from Extrasolar Planets
Twinkle, Twinkle… Large Planet
Backyard Telescopes for New Planets?
The Search for Distant Earths