The usual are we alone in the universe question and the European Space Agency seam to be looking for more earth-like planets. Class M planets for other Trekkie’s out there!!!
From Sky News
Mission To Find ‘Earths’
A satellite has been launched to seek out new Earth-like planets beyond the solar system and explore the interiors of stars.
The European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) COROT project, which blasted off from Kazakhstan, will put a telescope into orbit that is capable of detecting planets smaller than those currently known.
Some may be just a few times the size of Earth and rocky, rather than the larger, gaseous types.
“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,” researcher Claude Catala said.
“We expect to obtain a better vision of planet systems beyond the solar system, about the distribution of planet sizes.
“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.
COROT, a project of the French National Space Studies Centre (CNES) in which ESA is participating, will be able to detect smaller, rocky planets by measuring the drop in the stars’ brightness caused when a planet passes in front of them.
In 2008, US space organisation NASA is due to launch the first space telescope capable of detecting Earth-sized planets in similar orbits to our own.
Check out ESA’s Website for more information.
To find out more about the COROT mission check out the CNES website and the CORAT mission website
Mini-satellite from the CNES PROTEUS series
Afocal telescope equipped with 4 CCDs
Stellar seismology and search for extrasolar planets
Polar circular orbit,
altitude 896 km