June 8, 2010

TRAPPIST, A New Exoplanet-Hunting Telescope

For the record, I'd like to post this info about TRAPPIST, the most recent entry to our slew of planet-hunting telescopes. TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope) is a new robotic telescope from ESO at La Silla Observatory, in Chile. It is devoted to the study and detection of exoplanets and it will also study comets orbiting around our Sun. That is a nice combination to deal with the theme in Astrobiology about the study of the origin of Life.
TRAPPIST is a 60-cm telescope being remotely-operated from a control room in Li├Ęge, Belgium, 12,000 km away.
As it's name suggests, TRAPPIST will use the transit method, which is the same method that Kepler uses to hunt for planets. From its official website, there is no mention whether it is equipped with Adaptive Optics to counteract the effects of the Earth's atmosphere. But from the excellent night sky in Chile--aside from adding more entries into our known exoplanets database--we hope TRAPPIST will be capable of detecting earth-like planets as well.

TRAPPIST Official Website