An artist's concept of the CoRoT satellite in orbit.
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CNES / D. Ducros

CoRoT - Searching for distant worlds

The European Space Agency recently launched a satellite to study convection and rotation in pulsating stars. The mission will also look for planets that "transit" these distant stars. Scientists from France named the satellite CoRoT -- for Convection, Rotation, and planetary Transits.

CoRoT will measure the amount of light coming from many stars over time. Some of these stars will have planets around them. Some of those planets might pass in front of the star. This will cause a brief drop in the amount of light CoRoT sees. The drops must happen over and over from the same star. The color of the light should not change, and the shape of the drop must be right. Then it could be a planet.

Even planets the size of Earth might be found with CoRoT. This is about 10 times smaller than the smallest planets found by telescopes on the ground. What if it finds a planet like the Earth? We can begin looking for signs of liquid water, green plants, and maybe even intelligent life!

Last modified April 12, 2007 by Travis Metcalfe.

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