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Planet-hunter probe "Corot"
December 27, 2006 7:36 AM   Subscribe

France launches planet-hunting probe "Corot", the first spacecraft able to detect rocky planets down to about twice Earth's size. Its 2.5 year mission will be to seek out new planets from a field of about 200,000 nearby stars.
posted by stbalbach (21 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
(snarky French joke)
posted by jourman2 at 7:53 AM on December 27, 2006


(overly-intellectual Waiting for Corot joke)
posted by Plutor at 8:09 AM on December 27, 2006 [2 favorites]


It's not really a probe, it's a space telescope (like Hubble, but more precise). Your write-up makes it sound like it's some starship enterprise thing that will be zipping around the galaxy :P

I wonder why the decided to use the space scope only for this one application, rather then general science, like Hubble. Is it optimized in some way that makes it less general?
posted by delmoi at 8:13 AM on December 27, 2006


(Travelling with entire Jerry Lewis oeuvre on gold-plated disc joke)
posted by hal9k at 8:17 AM on December 27, 2006


Is it optimized in some way that makes it less general?

From the article:
"equipped with a 27-cm diameter afocal telescope and a 4-CCD camera sensitive to tiny variations of the light intensity from stars"

So yeah, it's optimized to find tiny variations of the light intensity from stars :)
posted by slater at 8:18 AM on December 27, 2006


Awesome! Vive La France!
posted by jason's_planet at 8:47 AM on December 27, 2006


How prescient: Baudelaire proclaimed that "...at the head of the modern school of landscape stands M. Corot."

Would you settle for an overly-intellectual pre-Impressionist joke?
posted by Haruspex at 9:21 AM on December 27, 2006


And by proclaimed, I mean Baudelaire proclaimed. But, admittedly, it was a feeble attempt to begin with.
posted by Haruspex at 9:26 AM on December 27, 2006


i has a corot
posted by roll truck roll at 9:28 AM on December 27, 2006


Upon reading the post (before reading the link), I was like "Uh, silly French, perhaps no one has told them of the Hubble."

But this appears to be a travelling French Hubble.
posted by ninjew at 10:01 AM on December 27, 2006


To clarify - it also studies the stars themselves, and would also detect non rocky planets (gas giants) around stars. But rocky isn't as interesting as rocky with O2 rich atmosphere, which this scope can't detect, sadly.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:11 AM on December 27, 2006


Silly French. Didn't someone tell them that money was better spent occupying a desert nation?
posted by sourwookie at 10:18 AM on December 27, 2006


Don't worry, the french are heavy investors in the War To Keep Chocolate Cheap.
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on December 27, 2006


Technically, it is a bit of a stretch to call Corot a "space telescope, "delmoi, because, like the NASA Project Kepler (sort-of self link, as I work on Kepler), which is launching in a couple years and it a bit more sensitive than Corot, it's not intended to be an imager. The purpose of Corot and Kepler are differential photometry, that is, taking measurements of the brightness of a star over a course of time to see when a planet goes across in front of it (and to understand other interesting things like asteroseismology).

To do this, it is much more reliable when you intentionally blur the image across a group of pixels so you can add up the photons -- the tradeoff is far differential measurement performance in exchange for no pictures.

The Kepler science team prefers, for this reason, that it be called a photometer rather than a telescope, as the word telescope gives people the wrong impression about its imaging capabilities.
posted by chimaera at 11:16 AM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


I've seen it called a "probe" in the press, too. It's just headlinese for "thingy sent up into space".

I wonder why the decided to use the space scope only for this one application, rather then general science, like Hubble.

I would never slam my homeboy Hubble, but a general science mission is actually harder in some ways -- the all things to all people problem. It's fantastic that we're developing more specialized missions nowadays. This is a really cool and well-timed mission.
posted by dhartung at 11:29 AM on December 27, 2006


Corot: Projectile Learnings of France for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan?
posted by owhydididoit at 11:44 AM on December 27, 2006


An interesting aspect is that Corot uses a basic "off-the-shelf" (sort of) commercial satellite platform. It would be sort of interesting to compare its cost with that of Kepler...
posted by Skeptic at 12:13 PM on December 27, 2006


Silly French. Didn't someone tell them that money was better spent occupying a desert nation?

Algeria laughed so hard I could hear their hookahs bubble from over here.
posted by trondant at 12:25 PM on December 27, 2006


Yes, but will it be able to find Asteroid B612?
posted by everichon at 3:17 PM on December 27, 2006


Corot stands for "Convection Rotation and planetary Transits". I am so disappointed that it is an acronym; I shall cheer myself with the conjecture that it is a back formation and they really wanted to mean the landscape artist, oh never mind.
posted by Cranberry at 3:24 PM on December 27, 2006


Pastabagel: It can't detect planetary atmospheres, sure, but it's an important precursor to missions that can. For the planet-finding mission I work on (TPF-C), we're looking forward to data from COROT and Kepler to better estimate ηEarth, the average number of planets per star. Knowing that most stars have, say, three planets would allow us to build a smaller and less-costly telescope that would still find lots of Earth-sized planets.
posted by Upton O'Good at 2:01 PM on December 28, 2006


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