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ASTERIA The Quest for Wandering Stars Beyond The Solar System
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Even if the word “planet” has meant many different things over the millennia and evenstill its definition is still evolving (Pluto!), their most accepted etymology is “wandering star” (from ancient greek asters planetai). The movements of the planets across the sky are the key for their detection and characterization. In ancient times, early cultures worldwide, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were known as planets because they could be seen from the naked eye. Astronomical telescope invention broadened horizons and led to further discoveries; finally Uranus, Neptune and Pluto completed the list of solar system's planets. With the 21st century, the quest for planets expanded beyond solar system. Currently extrasolar planets, the exoplanets, are being discovered around distant stars. One of the more used techniques for the detection of exoplanets is the transit method, One of the more used techniques for the detection of exoplanets is the transit method, the one that uses ASTERIA. “If a planet crosses (or transits) in front of its parent star's disk, then the observed brightness of the star drops by a small amount. The amount by which the star dims depends on its size and on the size of the planet, among other factors. Because the transit method requires that the planet's orbit intersect a line-of-sight between the host star and Earth, the probability that an exoplanet in a randomly oriented orbit will be observed to transit the star is somewhat small.” It is not surprising that ASTERIA has been awarded for the extraordinary achievement of detecting an exoplanet with the resources of a nanosatellite.

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