The Kepler Mission - The Kepler Space Telescope
"... the ways by which men arrive at knowledge of the celestial things are hardly less wonderful than the nature of these things themselves"
— Johannes Kepler
Importance of Planet Detection
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 following websites are tracking the day-by-day increase in new discoveries and are providing information on the characteristics of the planets as well as those of the stars they orbit: The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia, NASA Exoplanet Archive, New Worlds Atlas, and Current Planet Count Widget.
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 of their stars where liquid water and possibly life might exist.
The Kepler Mission, NASA Discovery mission #10, is specifically designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover dozens of Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone and determine how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy have such planets.
Results from this mission will allow us to place our solar system within the continuum of planetary systems in the Galaxy.
Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013 2:03 pm
Updated: 9:19 pm, Wed Sep 18, 2013.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA is calling off all attempts to fix its crippled Kepler space telescope. But it's not quite ready to call it quits on the robotic planet hunter.
Officials said Thursday they're looking at what science might be salvaged by using the broken spacecraft as is.
The $600 million mission has been in trouble since May, unable to point with precision at faraway stars in its quest for other planets. That's when a critical second wheel failed on the spacecraft. The first of four gyroscope wheels broke in 2012. At least three are needed for accurate pointing.
Since its launch in 2009, Kepler has confirmed 135 planets outside our solar system. And it's identified more than 3,500 candidate planets.
Kepler's unprecedented job was to track down other Earths.
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Thursday, August 15, 2013 2:03 pm.
Updated: 9:19 pm.