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The Kepler Mission

Kepler lifts off tonight at 10:48 pm EST. Everything you could possibly want to know about it can be found at Kepler.NASA.gov. The basic idea behind Kepler is that it will look at that » same spot of Milky Way (Cygnus Region) for the next 3 years, taking an observation every half hour. If any of the stars in its field of vision dime during that time as a result of exoplanets crossing between the star and Kepler, they'll use those measurements to determine the size of the planet and its distance from the star it orbits. Using that data they can possibly discover extrasolar earth-size planets in the Goldilocks Zone.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that for Kepler to find a planet, the planet has to be orbiting its star along the axis of Kepler's observation. If not, the planet will never transit its sun from our field of view.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of space-based telescopes. Worth far more than the weight of their delivery vesicles in gold as far as I'm concerned.

To date, we have discovered over 300 extra-solar planets, but they've all been of the massive gas giant type due to the limitations of the instruments used to find them. Kepler changes that.

Comments

  1. Addendum: On the topic of Cygnus, Cygnus X-1 is one of the astronomical objects that's nothing short of fascinating.

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  2. Not meaning to be picky, but I remembered something from a few years ago, not sure if this is it, re the finding of a couple earth-sized planets. I think the reason I remembered was because I thought, okay, once you start finding them, you should keep on finding them .. but things just sort of fizzled out. It's boggling though, if true, that we can not only find a couple of these things, but know for certain they are dead. It's just too simple .. like, always been dead, and other questions.

    Anyway, thanks for posting this stuff, interesting.

    (largo)

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