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COROT - Searching For Rocky Planets


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#16    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 03:53 PM

COROT sees first light!

linked-image
In the night between 17 and 18 January 2007, the protective cover of the COROT
telescope has been successfully opened, and COROT has seen for the first time light
coming from stars.

The first light detected by 30-centimetre COROT telescope comes from the
constellation of the Unicorn near Orion, the great ‘hunter’ whose imposing
silhouette stands out in the winter nights.

Credits: CNES


24 January 2007
In the night between 17 and 18 January 2007, the protective cover of the COROT telescope has been successfully opened, and COROT has seen for the first time light coming from stars.

Surveying vast stellar fields to learn about star interiors and to search for extra-solar planets is the goal of this unique mission, whose scientific observations will officially start at the beginning of February this year.

The first light detected by COROT comes from the constellation of the Unicorn near Orion, the great 'hunter' whose imposing silhouette stands out in the winter nights. This nice image, taken during the in-orbit calibration exercise, shows that the quality of this preliminary data is basically as good as the computer simulations. "This is an excellent piece of news," commented Malcolm Fridlund, ESA Project Scientist for COROT.

linked-image
After its launch in December 2006, COROT will be placed by a Soyuz launcher in a
polar circular orbit around Earth at an altitude of 896 kilometres.

This orbit that will allow for continuous observations of two large and opposite regions
in the sky for more than 150 days each.

The reason for the oppositely sited regions is that, because of the Earth’s movement
around the Sun, the sun’s rays start to interfere with the observations after 150 days.
COROT then rotates by 180 degrees and start observing the other region.

Credits: CNES


On 18 January, the telescope was carefully aligned with the region to be observed, facing away from the centre of our Galaxy. This setting that will be maintained until April, when the Sun's rays will start to interfere with the observations.

COROT will then rotate by 180 degrees and will start observing the opposite region towards the centre of the Milky Way. In the meantime the COROT scientists are preparing for the science phase to start in February, continuing a thorough examination of the data and the information collected so far.


Note

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COROT was successfully launched on a Souyz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome,
Kazakhstan, on 27 December 2006.

Credits: CNES/Starsem


COROT was set in space by a Soyuz rocket after a text-book launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 27 December 2006. Settled in its almost-circular polar orbit ranging between 895 and 906 kilometres altitude over the Earth's surface, the spacecraft was powered on 2 January 2007, and has begun its calibration exercise, still on going.

Major steps of this testing phase have been the test of the COROT four thrusters's nozzles, necessary to precisely orient the spacecraft in space, and the calibration of the light sensors. The sensor calibration process, which paradoxally must take place in total darkness, is designed to check the detector arrays pixel by pixel. For a given amount of light, a pixel doesn't generate exactly the same amount of current as its neighbours, so these individual responses must be taken into account when applying corrections to the scientific data to come.

COROT is a CNES project with ESA participation. The other major partners in this mission are Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Germany and Spain.


Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#17    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 01:15 AM

COROT enters fine-pointing mode

linked-image
This artist's view shows the COROT satellite, consisting of a 30-centimetre space
telescope launched on 27 December 2006.

COROT will use its telescope to monitor closely the changes in a star’s brightness that
comes from a planet crossing in front of it.

While it is looking at a star, COROT will also be able to detect ‘starquakes’, acoustical
waves generated deep inside a star that send ripples across a star’s surface, altering
its brightness. The exact nature of the ripples allows astronomers to calculate the star's
precise mass, age and chemical composition.

Credits: CNES/D. Ducros


5 February 2007
One month after successful launch, and about two weeks after the release of the first image of the sky, the COROT satellite successfully entered in 'fine pointing' mode.

The fine-pointing configuration was uploaded on 24 January 2007 after the activation of the seismology channel, and uses the satellite telescope as a 'super' star sensor. This will allow COROT to precisely target stars and perform astero-seismologic observations (probing stars interiors).

The optical performances of the seismology channel prove to be excellent, both in terms of shape and stability of the image spots, with a distortion incredibly close to the on-ground modelling performed before launch.

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In late January 2007, inside the images collected to calibrate the seismology channel,
COROT detected a junk object - a piece of a Delta 1 rocket launched in 1984.

This has left on the COROT's camera sensors (CCD) a small smear visible in the middle
of this stellar field image. The movement of the object inside the CCD image fits well
with the trajectory elements computed on ground.

Credits: CNES


Inside the images collected to calibrate the seismology channel, COROT detected a junk object - a piece of a Delta 1 rocket launched in 1984. This has left on the COROT's camera sensors (CCD) a small smear visible in the middle of the stellar field. The movement of the object inside the CCD image fits well with the trajectory elements computed on ground.

These and all the delicate operations of verification and in-orbit calibration of the COROT satellite – also including a program of calibrations relative to the instrument line of sight performed from 18 to 23 January - have been mastered by the satellite teams at CNRS (Laboratoire d'Etudes Spatiales et d'Instrumentation en Astrophysique (Observatoire Paris Meudon) and at Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille (Observatoire Astronomique de Marseille Provence).


Source: ESA - Space Science

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf, 06 February 2007 - 03:39 PM.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#18    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 30 March 2007 - 10:27 PM

COROT moves up a grade

The Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) press release is reproduced below:

30 March 2007

Three months after launch, CNES’s COROT stellar seismology and exoplanet hunting mission is poised to reach a highly symbolic milestone. In a few days’ time, the project team that has watched over the satellite from its design stage will hand over to controllers tasked with operating it through to the end of the mission.

In the space industry, “in-orbit checkout” is the period of a few months following the launch of a spacecraft during which teams run a series of checks to ensure it is acclimatizing to the rigours of space. This task includes verifying that the spacecraft bus and instruments perform as planned in readiness to accomplish the mission.

COROT completed this phase on 26 March when the project team gave its final report on the satellite’s performance to the review group and mission operations teams set to take over between now and mid-April.

linked-image
Artist's view of Corot.
Credits : CNES/Ill. D.D Ducros


Exceptional pointing performance

The results of in-orbit checkout are excellent, none more so than the exceptional precision of the fine-pointing mode developed especially for COROT. “We are seeing a precision of 0.25 arc seconds,” enthuses Pierre Bodin, who is in charge of the instrument on the project team. “That’s 2 times better than our initial objective.” To get an idea of just how precise, this means the instrument can resolve features as small as a hair’s breadth from a distance of 90 m.

COROT user guide

“The in-orbit checkout review produces a sort of user guide for the COROT operations team,” explains Pierre Bodin. “So, controllers now have everything they need to meet the mission scientists’ needs without jeopardizing data quality or the satellite’s safety.”

linked-image
First debriefing by the project team of seven weeks
of commissioning in orbit.
Crédits : CNES/L. Boisnard


Following this ultimate presentation, the review group will submit a certain number of questions to the development teams in the next few days before the final handover.

“The project team’s experts will of course be on hand if needed at any later stage,” says Pierre Bodin.

But he doesn’t expect they will be overly troubled. “The operations teams now have a baby that can walk and has already made good progress. And scientists are really delighted with the data they’ve been receiving since 6 February. Mission accomplished.”


Source: CNES Press Release

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#19    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 09:00 PM

COROT discovers its first exoplanet and catches scientists by surprise

3 May 2007

linked-image
This is an artist’s impression of a Jupiter-sized planet passing in front of its parent star.

Such events are called transits. When the planet transits the star, the star’s apparent brightness drops by a few percent for a short period. Through this technique, astronomers can search for planets across the galaxy by measuring periodic changes in a star’s luminosity.

The first class of exoplanets found by this technique are the so-called “hot Jupiters,” which are so close to their stars they complete an orbit within days, or even hours.

Credits: NASA, ESA and G. Baco


COROT has provided its first image of a giant planet orbiting another star and the first bit of ‘seismic’ information on a far away, Sun-like star- with unexpected accuracy.

The unanticipated level of accuracy of this raw data shows that COROT will be able to see rocky planets - perhaps even as small as Earth - and possibly provide an indication of their chemical composition.

COROT, a CNES project with ESA participation, is a mission with a dual goal. It is the first space mission dedicated entirely to the search of extra-solar planets. It provides a wide-field survey of planets like our own at an unprecedented level of accuracy. It is also making the most comprehensive study ever of the interior of stars other than our Sun. Both objectives are achieved by analysing the behaviour of light emitted by a target star.

An exoplanet is detected by COROT due to a sudden decrease in the intensity of light or the ‘light curve’ of a parent star when a planet transits in front of it.

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This image shows the signature of the presence of a planet orbiting a star.

The intensity of light coming from the star is represented on the y-axis whereas the x-axis shows the phase, or the revolution of the planet around the star.

The amount of light from the star reaching COROT decreases each time the planet passes in front of the star itself. This is when the drop is registered.

This was the first planet detected by COROT since the beginning of its mission. This light curve is part of a data set obtained between February and April 2007.

The planet is a very hot gas giant, of radius equal to 1.78 times that of Jupiter. The planet takes 1.5 days to revolve around the star.

Coordinated spectroscopic observations from the ground have allowed to determine that the mass of the planet is about 1.3 times that of Jupiter. The parent star is a yellow dwarf star similar to our Sun. It is located in the direction of the constellation Unicorn (Monocerus), roughly 1 500 light years from us.

Credits: COROT exo-team


The study of stellar interiors – or ‘asteroseismology’ – is carried out by analysing the oscillations in the light curve of the star. The oscillations are created due to mechanical waves propagating in the star itself and they give a clue to the structure of its interior.

COROT’s strength lies in the continued observation of the same targets in a given area of the sky. The observations have been on since the science operations began, 60 days ago. Another strong point is the accuracy with which it measures the variations in the luminosity of the star.

The first planet detected by COROT, now named ‘COROT-Exo-1b’, is a very hot gas giant, with a radius equal to 1.78 times that of Jupiter. It orbits a yellow dwarf star similar to our Sun with a period of about 1.5 days. ‘COROT-Exo-1b’ is situated roughly 1500 light years from us, in the direction of the constellation Unicorn (Monoceros). Coordinated spectroscopic observations from the ground have also allowed the determination of the mass of the planet, equivalent to about 1.3 Jupiter masses.

The scientific evaluation of the results that are streaming in will take some time. “The data we are presenting today is still raw but exceptional,” says Malcolm Fridlund, COROT Project Scientist for ESA. “It shows that the on-board systems are working better than expected in some cases - up to ten times the expectation before launch. This will have an enormous impact on the results of the mission.”

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As the planet passes in front of its parent star, the brightness of the star decreases.

Figure based on image by Hans Deeg, from 'Transits of extrasolar planets'.

Credits: Hans Deeg

All the sources of noise and disturbance have not yet been taken into account in the data. This first exoplanet was detected with an error of only five parts out of 100 000 during one hour of observation. When all the corrections are applied to the light curves, the error will be reduced to only one part out of 100 000.

As a consequence, small planets down to the size of our Earth – three times smaller than initially thought possible - will be in the grasp of COROT. The satellite may also be able, in specific circumstances, to detect subtle variations in the stellar light reflected by the planet itself. This would give an indication of its chemical composition.

The quality of the asteroseismological data is equally impressive. Excellent ‘starquake’ data were obtained during the first 60 days of observations, with a margin of error of less than one part per million.

linked-image
This image shows the light curve emitted by a binary star system as seen by COROT.

The crests show light emitted by both stars. However, when one star eclipses the other, the troughs are created due to a decrease in the amount of light reaching COROT. The periodicity is seen since the stars are revolving around each other with a fixed period.

The light curve was obtained by COROT during observations performed between February and April 2007.

This high quality of this light curve is due to the continuity of the observations and their high accuracy.

Credits: COROT exo-team


COROT observed a bright Sun-like star continuously for 50 days, showing large, unexpected luminosity variations on time scales of a few days. This may be related to the star’s magnetic activity.

The accuracy of these measurements was truly outstanding: with an error of five parts out of 100 000 in one minute (corresponding to one part per million over four minutes), COROT has already reached the maximum performance for a telescope of its size.

The preliminary analysis of the oscillations in stellar luminosity clearly shows the seismic signature typical of a Sun-like star. This analysis will eventually help scientists understand the star’s internal structure and age.

“COROT, a joint endeavour between France, Europe and Brazil under the leadership of CNES, was certainly born under a lucky star,” concluded Fridlund. “After a perfect launch, and a faster-than-expected start of its science operations, we have been eagerly awaiting its data. Now, having seen its quality, we can expect great discoveries in the future.”


Notes

COROT was launched by a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 27 December 2006. Settled in its almost-circular polar orbit ranging between 895 and 906 kilometres above the Earth's surface, the spacecraft was powered on on 2 January 2007 and started its science observations on 3 February this year.

COROT is a CNES project with ESA participation. The other major partners in this mission are Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Germany and Spain.


Source: ESA - Space Science

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#20    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 01:09 AM

COROT surprises a year after launch

20 December 2007
The space-borne telescope, COROT (Convection, Rotation and planetary Transits), has just completed its first year in orbit. The observatory has brought in surprises after over 300 days of scientific observations.

Pioneering precision measurement over long periods of time COROT is observing a large number of stars, up to 12 000, simultaneously, at a very high precision - unprecedented in ground-based astronomy. The key to the high-precision is that the observations can be carried out over very long periods of time – up to 150 days. This is being done for the first time ever.

The satellite measures variations in the light output of these stars down to one part in a million. This level of precision allows scientists to study the many ways in which stars vary. The pulsations are caused either due to unknown physical processes in the stellar interior, or by objects such as planets passing in front of the stellar surface.


A treasure trove of information for stellar seismology

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This figure displays the frequencies of the different modes of oscillations observed by COROT in a star of the Delta Scuti type.

Delta Scuti is a class of variable stars in which the variations found (for example also in the Sun) are exaggerated, and thus are easier to study. Scientists expect to increase their understanding of the mechnaisms causing stellar variability by observing several Delta Scuti stars with COROT.

The different peaks provide information about the internal constituency of the star. The level of detection from the ground is represented by the red horizontal line.

Credits: COROT exo-team


To date, 30 stars have been observed as part of the study of stellar seismology, the study of the miniscule changes in light output from a star caused by acoustic waves travelling through the star. The pattern of the changes tells us a lot about what is happening deep inside the star. The stars observed by COROT range from objects similar to our own Sun to older or more massive stars. The observation period varies between 20 and 150 days of essentially uninterrupted study.

After a preliminary analysis, the measurements have revealed very exciting results

Research into solar-type oscillations is one of the mission’s key objectives. Such oscillations have already been found in two stars that are very similar to our sun - first in HD49933 and then in HD181420. The variations are very weak in amplitude and given their short coherence time (the duration for which a particular wave persists on the stellar surface), they are very hard to detect and measure.

COROT’s discovers its second exoplanet

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This is the light-curve of the parent star of COROT-exo-2b.

The observation was carried out for 140 days. The light-curve contains 78 passages of the planet in front of the star. This is a record, compared to previous (ground-based) observations where transits sometimes take place in the daytime and are impossible to observe.

The photometric precision obtained in this light-curve is also without precedence, and remains constant during the whole sequence. It reaches 160 parts per million in an integration time of 2.5 minutes – a value impossible to obtain with any ground-based instrument. The light-curve also contains much information about the star itself. It shows periodic modulations, probably the result of different rotational velocities at different latitudes of the star.

This is another nice example of COROT’s superior performance and demonstrates the impact that this mission will have on our understanding of stellar activity and its connection to extrasolar planets.

Credits: COROT exo-team


As a planet passes in front of a star, there is a dip in the light output from the star, which is detected by COROT. Since many other processes can mimic the signature observed, to confirm the presence of a planet, a large confirmation programme with supplementary ground-based observations is necessary to prove the existence of a planet.

Although COROT observes thousands of light curves, the pace of discovery is governed by ground-based observations.

In the third sequence of COROT observations, a likely time for the transit of COROT-exo-2b in front of its star was worked out and an analysis of the light curve was carried out in real-time to confirm the find. Observations were carried out simultaneously at the observatory of Haute Provence in France, and at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, confirming the existence of the planet and its mass was measured.

COROT-exo-2b orbits a star similar to our Sun, somewhat more massive and cooler, but more active. It is located about 800 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Serpens. COROT-exo-2b is a giant planet, 1.4 times larger and 3.5 times more massive than Jupiter. Its average density of 1.5 grams per cubic centimetre is also somewhat higher than Jupiter’s. This massive planet orbits its star in a little less than two days from a distance of about six times the stellar radius.

"Christmas is early this year,” for ESA's COROT Project Scientist, Malcolm Fridlund. “The release of the first data set has already had the science team working hard. The quality of the data is fantastic and the results will change both, how we see exoplanets and how we understand stars."


Notes:

During the spring of 2007, COROT discovered its first exoplanet, named COROT-exo-1b.

On 10 December 2007, the first set of data obtained by COROT was released to the Co-Investigators of the mission. These scientists hail from the member states of the COROT consortium (ESA, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, and Spain). The actual analysis of large amounts of data has just begun and is expected to speed-up with the release of the next data segment in February 2008.

In the data obtained, many light curves show signs of exoplanets in transit and are being followed-up from ground. Within this list of objects which is growing by the day, two candidates stand out as particularly interesting. One planet is half the size of Saturn, and another is the size of Jupiter, but with a very unusual density.

The discovery of COROT-exo-1b and COROT-exo-2b is described in three scientific papers that will be submitted to scientific journals in the next few days.

COROT has observed four regions so far:

  • One zone in the direction of the constellation of the Unicorn (Monoceros) for 60 days
  • Two regions in the opposite direction on the sky, towards the constellation of the Snake's tail (Serpens Cauda) – one short for 26 days and one long for 150 days.
  • A new region in the direction of the Unicorn, where COROT will remain for at least 150 days


COROT was launched by a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonour cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 27 December 2006. Settled in its almost-circular polar orbit ranging between 895 and 906 km above Earth's surface, the spacecraft was powered on 2 January 2007 and started its science observations on 3 February this year.

COROT is a CNES project with ESA participation. The other major partners in this mission are Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Germany and Spain.


For more information:

Malcolm Fridlund, ESA COROT Project Scientist
Email: Malcolm.Fridlund @ esa.int

Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#21    Waspie_Dwarf

Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 01:27 PM

Exoplanet hunt update

21 May 2008

linked-image
This artist's view shows the COROT satellite, consisting of a 30-centimetre space telescope launched on 27 December 2006.

COROT will use its telescope to monitor closely the changes in a star’s brightness that comes from a planet crossing in front of it.

While it is looking at a star, COROT will also be able to detect ‘starquakes’, acoustical waves generated deep inside a star that send ripples across a star’s surface, altering its brightness. The exact nature of the ripples allows astronomers to calculate the star's precise mass, age and chemical composition.

Credits: CNES/D. Ducros


Two new exoplanets and an unknown celestial object are the latest findings of the COROT mission. These discoveries mean that the mission has now found a total of four new exoplanets.

These results were presented this week at the IAU symposium 253 in Massachusetts, USA.

COROT has now been operating for 510 days, and the mission started observations of its sixth star field at the beginning of May this year. During this observation phase, which will last 5 months, the spacecraft will simultaneously observe 12 000 stars.

The two new planets are gas giants of the hot Jupiter type, which orbit very close to their parent star and tend to have extensive atmospheres because heat from the nearby star gives them energy to expand.  


“Scientists suspect that with the detection of COROT-exo-3b, they might just have discovered the missing link between stars and planets.”
In addition, an oddity dubbed ‘COROT-exo-3b’ has raised particular interest among astronomers. It appears to be something between a brown dwarf, a sub-stellar object without nuclear fusion at its core but with some stellar characteristics, and a planet. Its radius is too small for it to be a super-planet.

If it is a star, it would be among the smallest ever detected. Follow-up observations from the ground have pinned it at 20 Jupiter massses. This makes it twice as dense as the metal Platinum.

Scientists suspect that with the detection of COROT-exo-3b, they might just have discovered the missing link between stars and planets.


“COROT has also detected extremely faint signals that, if confirmed, could indicate the existence of another exoplanet, as small as 1.7 times Earth’s radius.”

COROT has also detected extremely faint signals that, if confirmed, could indicate the existence of another exoplanet, as small as 1.7 times Earth’s radius.

This is an encouraging sign in the delicate and difficult search for small, rocky exoplanets that COROT has been designed for.


Note:

COROT was launched atop the Soyuz from the Baikonour cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 27 December 2006. Settled in its almost-circular polar orbit ranging between 895 and 906 km above Earth's surface, the spacecraft was first powered on 2 January 2007 and started its science observations on 3 February of the same year.

COROT is a CNES project with ESA participation. The other major partners in this mission are Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Germany and Spain.


For more information:

Malcolm Fridlund, ESA COROT Project Scientist
Malcolm.Fridlund @ esa.int

Source: ESA - Space Science - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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