Friday, May 04, 2007

COROT Satellite Imagery

The European Space Agency's COROT satellite has released its first images, taken from its discoery of the exoplanet lablled COROT-Exo-1b, orbiting a yellow dwarf star in the contellation Unicorn 1500 light years from Earth. While not an astounding find, the imagery has generated some surprise among scientists - the satellite's instrumentation is operating with an unexpectedly high level of precision - so much so that it could conceivably directly image an earth size terrestrial planet and geta chemical analysis.

"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."

They are also getting some pretty amazingly detailed data on the star, with an accuracy under 5 parts per 100,000, and this is expected to improve to 1 over time with fine tuning. COROT was launched in December aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, entered into its designated orbit and was powered on Jan 2 of this year and began its observation work ahead of schedule on Feb. 3.

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