Space Astronomy Discussion Forum

Deep Space Objects => Galaxies => : Andy February 25, 2009, 11:54:26 AM



: Milky Way may be full of "Earths"
: Andy February 25, 2009, 11:54:26 AM
This article is featured on CNN about NASA searching for Earth-like planets within the Milky Way galaxy: http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/space/02/25/galaxy.planets.kepler/index.html (http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/space/02/25/galaxy.planets.kepler/index.html)





: Re: Milky Way may be full of "Earths"
: Andy March 06, 2009, 11:52:50 AM
Update: The Kepler spacecraft and its Delta II rocket are "go" at 10:49 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Weather predictions remain good, with a 95 percent chance of favorable conditions at launch time and a temperature of 64 degrees.

 "This is a historical mission. It's not just a science mission," NASA Associate Administrator Ed Weiler said during a pre-launch news conference.

"It really attacks some very basic human questions that have been part of our genetic code since that first man or woman looked up in the sky and asked the question: Are we alone?"

The spacecraft will look in our Milky Way galaxy for tiny dips in a star's brightness, which can mean an orbiting planet is passing in front of it -- an event called a transit.

 "We won't find E.T., but we might find E.T.'s home," said William Borucki, science principal investigator for the Kepler mission.

About 330 "exoplanets" -- those circling sun-like stars outside the solar system -- have been discovered since the first was confirmed in 1995.

Most are gas giants like Jupiter, but some have been classified as "super earths," or worlds several times the mass of our planet, said Alan Boss, an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution who serves on the Kepler Science Council. They are too hot to support life, he added, calling them "steam worlds."

(Note: You must be logged in to view these pictures) The top picture is showing the Milky Way region of the sky where the Kepler spacecraft/photometer will be pointing. Each rectangle indicates the specific region of the sky covered by each CCD element of the Kepler photometer. There are a total of 42 CCD elements in pairs, each pair comprising a square. Credit: Carter Roberts / Eastbay Astronomical Society

The bottom picture is a view of the backside of the solar array on the left. The spacecraft and photometer without the sunshade are shown on the right. Credit: NASA and Ball Aerospace.



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