The European Space Agency today launched COROT, a telescope that will monitor changes in the brightness of stars to detect planets:
“COROT will be able to find extra-solar planets of all sizes and natures, contrary to what we can do from the ground at the moment,” Claude Catala, one of the researchers associated with the project, told France Info radio before the launch.
“We expect to obtain a better vision of planet systems beyond the solar system, about the distribution of planet sizes,” Catala said. “And finally, it will allow us to estimate the likelihood of there existing planets resembling the Earth in the neighbourhood of the sun or further away in the galaxy.”
Planets have been found orbiting stars other than the sun but they have never been seen. Instead, scientists have deduced they are there based on the stars’ “wobble”, the result of the gravitational pull of planets revolving around them.