Project Exoplanet Brings World Together

Feb 16, 2009
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Project Exoplanet Brings World Together

by Staff Writers
Mumbai, India (PTI) Mar 10, 2010
Fourteen exoplanets have been discovered since the year began while the figure for 2009 was 84, said eminent astronomer
Malcolm Longair, of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge.

Exoplanets are those planets that lie outside the solar system. There are billions of stars in our galaxy and a significant percentage of these have planets orbiting them. "As of February 27, 429 exoplanets were discovered, some of these by Nasa's Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Infrared Observatory", he said at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

Longair, who is a part of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) team, said that the current plans envisage it functioning till 2014 and then being replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWT). While the HST has a mirror measuring 2.5 metres, the size of JWST's mirror is 6.5 metres.

The project is an international one with collaboration among NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. The launch, scheduled for 2014, will be from the European spaceport of Kourou in French Guyana.

On March 3, 2010, the nearly $4 billion JWST reached a mission readiness landmark when its first primary mirror segment was cryo polished. The achievement sets the stage for a successful polishing process for the remaining 18 flight mirror segments.

Canvendish said that apart from the JWST, some of the other future astronomical flights include the Euclid mission of the European Space Agency, the International X-ray observatory and the 16-metre space telescope.

He told TOI that Nasa's Constellation program - that humans return to Moon by 2020 - which was scrapped by President Obama has been replaced by the International X-ray observatory project, a joint effort of Nasa, Esa and Jaxa, the Japanese Space Agency.

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