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NASA Kepler Mission Launch

Kepler Mission

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: Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia, 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 our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller 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.



The Kepler spacecraft is designed to stare at one region of our Milky Way galaxy and capture images of any transits it sees.
For more on the Kepler mission, visit

Kepler - A Search for Habitable Planets"Kepler is a critical component in NASA's broader efforts to ultimately find and study planets where Earth-like conditions may be present," said Jon Morse, the Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The planetary census Kepler takes will be very important for understanding the frequency of Earth-size planets in our galaxy and planning future missions that directly detect and characterize such worlds around nearby stars."

The mission will spend three and a half years surveying more than 100,000 sun-like stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of our Milky Way galaxy. It is expected to find hundreds of planets the size of Earth and larger at various distances from their stars. If Earth-size planets are common in the habitable zone, Kepler could find dozens; if those planets are rare, Kepler might find none.

In the end, the mission will be our first step toward answering a question posed by the ancient Greeks: are there other worlds like ours or are we alone?

Kepler Mission - Overview - NASA - (HD)


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