Exoplanet CoRoT-7b


It may not be a catchy name, but the ESO discovery is nevertheless very significant.

The longest set of HARPS measurements ever made has firmly established the nature of the smallest and fastest-orbiting exoplanet known, CoRoT-7b, revealing its mass as five times that of Earth’s. Combined with CoRoT-7b’s known radius, which is less than twice that of our terrestrial home, this tells us that the exoplanet’s density is quite similar to the Earth’s, suggesting a solid, rocky world. The extensive dataset also reveals the presence of another so-called super-Earth in this alien solar system.

The ESA’s P.R. folks put it in better pespective:

The confirmation of the nature of CoRoT-7b as the first rocky planet outside our Solar System marks a significant step forward in the search for Earth-like exoplanets. The detection by CoRoT and follow-up radial velocity measurements with HARPS suggest that this exoplanet, CoRoT-7b, has a density similar to that of Mercury, Venus, Mars and Earth making it only the fifth known terrestrial planet in the Universe.

The search for a habitable exoplanet is one of the holy grails in astronomy. One of the first steps towards this goal is the detection of terrestrial planets around solar-type stars. Dedicated programmes, using telescopes in space and on ground, have yielded evidence for hundreds of planets outside of our Solar System. The majority of these are giant, gaseous planets, but in recent years small, almost Earth-mass planets have been detected demonstrating that the discovery of Earth analogues – exoplanets with one Earth mass or one Earth radius orbiting a solar-type star at a distance of about 1 astronomical unit – is within reach.

 A little too hot for us. The work of astronomers continues, worldwide, day and night.