Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kepler Mission: A Serious Search for Other Earths

"A Search for Habitable Planets"

There's a "Kepler Countdown Clock" on this page, and links to a webcast, biography of Kepler, 'multimedia' about the Kepler mission: a pretty good assortment of edutainment.

And, wouldn't you know it, the Kepler mission has a Twitter account and a Facebook page.

"Kepler Overview"

"Kepler: NASA's first mission capable of finding Earth-size and smaller planets around other stars

"The centuries-old quest for other worlds like our Earth has been rejuvenated by the intense excitement and popular interest surrounding the discovery of hundreds of planets orbiting other stars. There is now clear evidence for substantial numbers of three types of exoplanets; gas giants, hot-super-Earths in short period orbits, and ice giants. The challenge now is to find terrestrial planets (i.e., those one half to twice the size of the Earth), especially those in the habitable zone...."

(from NASA, used w/o permission)

The Kepler spacecraft is going to trail Earth in its orbit around the sun, and spend several years with its telescope pointed at an area between the the constellations Lyra and Cygnus. It'll be staring down an arm of the Milky Way galaxy. The odds are pretty good that, if planets like the one we're standing are out there, some will pass between their sun and the Kepler telescope in that time.

Exciting times, these that we're living in.
Update (March 6, 2009)

"Kepler Spacecraft Blasts Off to Hunt Earth-Like Worlds "
Space.com (March 6, 2009)

"NASA's new planet-hunting Kepler telescope launched into space late Friday, lighting up the night sky above Florida as it began an ambitious mission to seek out Earth-like planets around alien stars.

"Kepler blasted off atop a Delta 2 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 10:49 p.m. EST (0349 March 7 GMT)...."

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