In early February 2009, the CoRoT space telescope discovered CoRoT-7b, the first rocky planet to be detected outside the solar system (artist’s impression). CoRoT-7b is five times heavier than our home planet and has approximately the same density. This extra-solar planet therefore belongs to the class of ‘Super Earths’ – of which about a dozen are known – although this is the first time it has been possible to determine the density of one of them.
CoRoT was launched on 27 December 2006 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and is the first satellite mission to be tasked with searching for rocky – this is, Earth-like – planets outside our Solar System.
Credit: ESO/L. Calcada.