PARIS:

The first satellite dedicated solely to seeking out new planets beyond our solar system will be launched next month, the European Space Agency (ESA) has said.

The French project, dubbed COROT, will send into orbit a telescope capable of detecting smaller planets than is currently possible — some maybe just a few times the size of Earth and rocky, rather than the larger, gaseous types, ESA said. “COROT could detect so many planets of this new type, together with plenty of the old type, that astronomers will be able to make statistical studies of them,” Malcolm Fridlund, ESA’s project scientist for COROT, said in a statement. That would enable scientists to make predictions of the number and type of planets orbiting a given star, said ESA, which is participating in the project.