06272017Mar
Last updateVie, 02 Jun 2017 7am

Are we alone?

 

NASA has a mission called Kepler, it is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets. Kepler was launched in March 2009.

The Kepler mission

How?


By a method known as the transit method of planet finding. When we see a planet pass in front of its parent star it blocks a small fraction of the light from that star. When that happens, we say that the planet is transiting the star. If we see repeated transits at regular times, we have discovered a planet! From the brightness change we can tell the planet size. From the time between transits, we can tell the size of the planet's orbit and estimate the planet's temperature. These qualities determine possibilities for life on the planet.

What?


The Kepler satellite has a 0.95-meter diameter telescope that is a photometer having a field of view a bit over 10 degrees square (and area of sky the size of about two open hands). It is designed to continuously and simultaneously monitor brightness’s of 100,000 stars brighter than 14th magnitude in the constellations Cygnus & Lyrae.
To detect an Earth-size planet, the photometer must be able to sense a drop in brightness of only 1/100 of a percent. This is akin to sensing the drop in brightness of a car's headlight when a fruitfly moves in front of it! The photometer must be space based to obtain this precision.


Reference: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/main/index.html

Videos

 

 

 

 

Discovery of Kepler 22B

Scientists from NASA's Kepler mission have been busy recently. The team has announced the discovery of Kepler-22b, its first confirmed planet in the habitable zone of its solar system, 600 light years away. They have also been combing through light data captured by the telescope and have released the latest number of planetary candidates team members have identified. Credit: NASA / Ames Research Center.
Discovery of Kepler 16B

NASA’s Kepler mission has turned fiction into fact. A world with a double sunset that was first imagined in "Star Wars" over 30 years ago in a galaxy far, far away has become scientific reality. Credit: NASA / Ames Research Center.

 

 

 

 

 

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