Feb 3, 2009 | 3
The exoplanet express just keeps on rolling: The European Space Agency (ESA) today announced the discovery of the smallest known planet orbiting a normal star other than the sun. The newly discovered extrasolar planet, or exoplanet, which appears to be terrestrial (that is, not a gas giant like Jupiter), has a radius less than twice that of Earth.
The exoplanet has been dubbed COROT-Exo-7b after the European satellite COROT, which located it. The space telescope revealed the exoplanet by monitoring how the light from its parent star dimmed as the planet transited, or passed in front of the star during orbit (see brightness graph, not to scale, at left). Most of the 300-plus exoplanets so far discovered have been found using this method or by observing the wobbling of stars induced by the gravitational pull of orbiting bodies.
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