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Russia to Start Own Search for Extrasolar Planets

RIA Novosti

16:47 01/02/2012 MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti) - Russian astronomers are planning to start their own search for planets outside the Solar System using ground-based telescopes, head of the Institute for Space Research Lev Zelyony said on Wednesday.

“Scientists from the Pulkovo Observatory are planning to use ground-based instruments to study the transit of planets around their parent stars,” Zelyony said at a roundtable meeting at RIA Novosti headquarters in Moscow.

The search for extrasolar planets or exoplanets is one of the fastest developing areas of astronomy. A total of 755 such planets have been identified since 1989 when observations suggested that a planet orbits the star Gamma Cephei in the constellation of Cepheus.

The U.S. Kepler and France’s CoRoT space telescopes proved to be very successful in identifying exoplanets but ground-based projects could also be effective, Zelyony said citing the example of the Hungarian Automated Telescope Network (HATNet) which so far has discovered 29 exoplanets.

The transit method of detection, which the Russian astronomers are planning to use, is based on the observation of a star's small drop in brightness that occurs when the orbit of a planet passes in front of the star.

“It is an interesting research, which should be pursued,” Zelyony said. “It will also help us look at our Solar System from a different perspective.”

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