Feeds

France prepares planet hunting 'scope

Launch slated for December

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

France is ramping up activity ahead of December's launch of the COROT space telescope.

COROT, short for convection rotation and planetary transits, will search the skies for extra-solar planets, but unlike the hunting that has been done so far, COROT will be looking for rocky worlds, like Earth.

High above the Earth's obfuscating atmosphere, COROT will scan the stars, looking for a tell-tale dip in a star's brightness, indicative of a world passing in front of its parent star. It is capable of detecting a dimming of one part in 100,000, thanks to a light-trapping baffle system designed by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Most of the planets it finds will be so-called Hot Jupiters, gas giants that orbit very close to their parent star, like the majority of extra-solar worlds already identified. But because the telescope's view will not be impaired by the Earth's atmosphere, scientists are also expecting COROT to be able to identify much smaller rocky worlds.

Those planning to colonise an alien world should probably not get too excited, yet. COROT is most sensitive to planets orbiting very close to their parent star - closer even than Mercury is to the sun. However, none of these will be particularly hospitable worlds.

There is a chance, however, that the 'scope might spot a rocky planet in a tight orbit around a relatively cool red giant star. In this scenario, it might be possible for liquid water to exist on the hypothetical world's surface.

COROT has goals beyond planet hunting. While half its instruments search for alien worlds, the other half will be watching the surface of stars for sound waves, the stellar equivalent of seismic waves on Earth. Studying these subtle variations in a star's surface can give astronomers an insight into the internal workings of the star and should help unravel the details of stellar evolution.

ESA's COROT project scientist Malcolm Fridlund said: "Stellar physics is not a 'done deal'. In fact, we are really just beginning with it." ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.