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COROT discovers its first exoplanet and catches scientists by surprise

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Copyright ESA

COROT has provided its first image of a giant planet orbiting another star and the first bit of ‘seismic’ information on a far away, Sun-like star, with unexpected accuracy.

The unanticipated level of accuracy of this raw data shows that COROT will be able to see rocky planets – perhaps even as small as Earth – and possibly provide an indication of their chemical composition.

COROT, a CNES project with ESA participation, is a mission with a dual goal. It is the first space mission dedicated entirely to the search of extra-solar planets. It provides a wide-field survey of planets like our own at an unprecedented level of accuracy. It is also making the most comprehensive study ever of the interior of stars other than our Sun. Both objectives are achieved by analysing the behaviour of light emitted by a target star.

An exoplanet is detected by COROT due to a sudden decrease in the intensity of light or the ‘light curve’ of a parent star when a planet transits in front of it.

The study of stellar interiors – or ‘asteroseismology’ – is carried out by analysing the oscillations in the light curve of the star. The [...]