Satellite operations for the CoRoT mission have been extended until 31 March 2013. The decision by the French Space Agency, CNES, and the mission partners, including ESA, was taken on 23 October at a specially convened meeting at the CNES Headquarters in Paris.
Launched in December 2006, with a nominal lifetime of 3 years, CoRoT has steadily pursued its dual mission objectives of searching for exoplanets and performing asteroseismology.
A recent issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics, dedicated to CoRoT, highlights some of the key results from the first phase of the mission. These include:
+ the discovery of 7 exoplanets including CoRoT 7-b, the first exoplanet that is known to be rocky in nature
+ the detection of a secondary transit, when the planet passes behind the parent star, in CoRoT-1b
+ the first measurements of stellar oscillations in red giant stars
+ observations of a Be star during a rare outburst
The success of this first phase of the mission and the impact of the early scientific results were the basis for the decision to extend the mission operations.
The three year extension will be used to probe new types of stars and to revisit, and study in depth, those stars which have exhibited the most unexpected behaviour.
The impact on the search for exoplanets will be an increase in the number of detections, and there will be particular emphasis on the search for “hot super-Earths” – planets slightly more massive than the Earth but much closer to their parent star.