McDonald Astronomers Help Confirm CoRoT Satellite's New Crop of Extrasolar Planets

14 June 2010

Today, France's space agency, the Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES), announced that its CoRoT satellite has found seven new extrasolar planets. A significant component of the ground-based confirmation and follow-up research for four of these (CoRoT-11b, 12b, 14b, and 15b) was undertaken by McDonald Observatory astronomers.


Michael Endl, Bill Cochran, and Phillip MacQueen used Hawaii's Keck 1 Telescope together with its HIRES spectrograph to confirm the four planets. They used Keck to make radial velocity measurements of extremely faint stars — three of these are about 10,000 times fainter than the human eye can see. This work requires the world's largest telescopes and the best instruments, Endl said.

The team received additional help from professor Chris Sneden of the University of Texas at Austin astronomy department and McDonald Observatory's Stuart Barnes.

For more information on the planets themselves and about the CoRoT mission, see the CNES press release.

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Science contact: Michael Endl, McDonald Observatory Research Scientist, 512-471-8312.