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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2006 > Dec > Dec 28

Space Telescope To Hunt Planets

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 06:09:04 -0500
Fwd Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 06:09:04 -0500
Subject: Space Telescope To Hunt Planets

Source: The BBC - London, UK


Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Space Telescope To Hunt Planets

The French-led Corot mission has taken off from Kazakhstan on a
quest to find planets outside our Solar System.

The space telescope will monitor about 120,000 stars for tiny
dips in brightness that result from planets passing across their

The multinational mission will also study the stars directly to
uncover more about their interior behaviour.

Corot blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 1423 GMT,
carried into a polar orbit on a Soyuz-2-1b vehicle.

A European Space Agency (Esa) spokeswoman said the take-off had
gone smoothly.

However, officials would not know until later whether the
satellite had separated from its launcher correctly, she said.

From its vantage point 827km (514 miles) above the Earth, Corot
will survey star fields for approximately 2.5 years.

The French space agency, Cnes, is working with six international
partners: Esa, Austria, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Brazil.

'Chance' observation

Ian Roxburgh, professor of astronomy at Queen Mary, University
of London, UK, is the Esa scientist on the mission.

"The exciting part of this mission is to look, or to try to
find, planets that are similar to the Earth," he told the BBC.

Finding a transit will involve a bit luck

"That is, they'll be somewhat bigger than the Earth, but they'll
be made of rocky material able to sustain an atmosphere, and
probably provide the sort of environment in which life could

"And of course subsequently, many years downstream, we will have
more sophisticated measurements, instruments that will look for
signatures of life. But at this stage, we need to understand how
often there are planets like the Earth around other stars."

Corot will monitor the brightness of stars, looking for the
slight drop in light caused by the transit of a planet.

This is a rare event - it relies on the chance alignment of the
star and the planet with Earth. As a consequence, Corot must
keep an eye on more than 100,000 stars.

Star tremors

With Corot, astronomers expect to find between 10 and 40 rocky
objects slightly larger than Earth, together with tens of new
gas giants similar to our Jupiter, in each star field they

Every 150 days, Corot will move to a new field and begin
observing again.

Its first target field is towards the centre of our galaxy, the
Milky Way. Its next will be in the direction of the
constellation Orion.

Corot's instrumentation is also designed to detect the subtle
variation in a star's light caused by sound waves rippling
across the surface. These waves are the equivalent of seismic
waves on the Earth.

By studying these "starquakes", astronomers can gain a detailed
insight into the internal conditions of the star.

Corot stands for "Convection Rotation and planetary Transits".

The satellite is the first of a number of spacecraft that will
hunt and study distant planets over the next few years.

[Thanks to Nick Pope for the lead]

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