12,000 stars viewed simultaneously
Unlike its illustrious cousin Hubble, CNES’s space telescope doesn’t acquire images of stars.
CoRoT’s mission is to record any variations in brightness of the celestial objects it is pointed at. These may be stars, but also and above all exoplanets outside our solar system.
“CoRoT can observe 12,000 stars at the same time and measure variations in their brightness very precisely,” explains Annie Baglin, an astrophysicist at the Paris Observatory.
CoRoT’s list of discoveries already includes 5 confirmed Jupiter-like exoplanets. Among these are CoRoT-Exo-3b and CoRoT-Exo-4b, 2 very exotic objects.
Finding small planets
Space telescopes offer the capability to observe the same star for months at a time and record a wealth of data about its behaviour.
This can only be achieved from space, because Earth’s rotation makes it impossible to point a ground telescope at a star for a long period.Moreover, space telescopes are free fromEarth’s thick obscuring atmosphere.
As CoRoT starts its 3rd year of observations, the venerable Hubble Space Telescope is being prepared for one last Space Shuttle mission to upgrade it in May.