Observatoire de Paris
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Diagram mass/distance from the star. Classification of the exoplanets in a mass/distance from the star diagram : the exoplanets already detected are given in blue on the figure, and the planets of the Solar System in red. The Earth is in the habitable zone (in grey).
Crédit : Paris Observatory / LUTH

During the development period of CoRoT, a Canadian university team created a very small satellite dedicated to the study of the oscillations of bright stars, called MOST. Launched in 2004, these observations will probably allow us to refine the observation program of CoRoT.

Launched in 2006, CoRoT is at least two years ahead of its immediate successors, KEPLER and EDDINGTON. The following steps are very ambitious : they aim to detect and analyze the conditions of the emergence of life in the universe.

In the diagram, each line indicates the lower limit of the detectability zone of each of the observation resources :

  • in green, the spectroscopy from the ground,
  • in pink, the limits for CoRoT,
  • in purple, the limits for Kepler and Eddington,
  • in orange, the limits for GAIA (an ESA astrometry mission)

MOST, a canadian micro-satellite developed at the University of Toronto, was launched in June, 2004. It is dedicated to the observation of the photometric variations of several bright stars, which can be followed up continously for one month.
The first results confirmed the high quality of the observations from space : accuracy and continuity. The scientific interpretation, in progress, will yield many surprises.

The European Space Agency (ESA), which participates in CoRoT, proposed a second generation project called EDDINGTON. With three 60-cm telescopes, it aims to detect planets similar to the Earth, based on very long observations (3 years) in the same region of the sky. The sismology program will have access to stars fainter than those observed with CoRoT, and also to the nearest clusters of stars such as the Pleiades or the Hyades.
Financial problems are, unfortunately, postponing the final decision.

The American Space Agency (NASA) develops the KEPLER project to detect small planets, and planets similar to the Earth, with the same size and located at the same distance from their stars that the earth is from the sun.
It is a 1.2m telescope, observing a surface on the sky of about 100 square degrees. It will be put on a heliocentric orbit, following the Earth on its orbit, which should allow for the observation of the same region of the sky for several years.