Kepler scope discovers
‘Stunning’ images of distant planet
Five months after it was launched on a mission to find earth-like
planets, the Kepler space telescope has sent back to Earth
high-precision images of a planet some 1,000 light years away, NASA said
But the real excitement at NASA was over how well Kepler was working,
and the promise it holds for the future.
File picture dated February 13, 2009 shows at Hazardous
Processing Facility at Astrotech in Titusville, Florida, workers
checking the kepler seacecraft as it is lifted for weighing.
Kepler is designed to survey more than 100,000 stars in our
galaxy to determine the number of sun-like stars that have
Earth-sizs and larger planets, including those that lie in a
star’s “habitable zone,” a region where liquid water , and
perhaps life, could exist, Five months after it was launched on
a mission to find earth-like planets, the kepler space telescope
has sent back to Earth high-precision images of a planet some
1,000 light years away , NASA said on August 6,
With Kepler only in the calibration phase, the telescope, which was
launched in March on a mission to find earth-like planets in the galaxy,
sent back to Earth highly precise images of a planet with the unromantic
name of HAT-P-7-B.
The images of the so-called “hot Jupiter” planet located about 1,000
light years (around 5.9 quadrillion miles, 9.5 quadrillion kilometers)
from Earth were “the first time anyone has seen light from this planet,”
said William Borucki, the principal science investigator for the Kepler
mission and lead author of a report that will be published Friday in
But while the scientists were enthusiastic about Kepler’s discovery
of optical light from HAT-P-7-B — Carnegie Institution astrophysicist
Alan Boss called it “stunning indeed” — they were even more excited by
the fact that Kepler was working, and working well.
“The real headline is Kepler works,” said Boss.
“The implication from this is that Kepler has the ability to detect
the transit of an earth-size planet passing in front of a sun-type star
producing a very tiny dimming.
“Kepler was launched not just to find exo-planets but its prime
mission is to count how many earths there are around sun-like stars in
our region of the galaxy. We now know Kepler can do it,” said Boss.
The data were gathered by Kepler during the first 10-days of
data-gathering, boding well for the next few years that the telescope
will spend trained on the same spot in space, taking in about 100,000
stars around the Cygnus and Lyra constellations of the Milky Way.
“The observation demonstrates the extremely high precision of the
measurements made by the telescope, even before its calibration and data
analysis software were finished,” NASA said in a statement.
At a cost of nearly 600 million dollars, Kepler is the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration’s first mission in search of
Earth-like planets orbiting suns similar to ours.
It is equipped with the largest camera ever launched into space — a
95-megapixel array of charge-coupled devices (CCDs).
NASA scientists expects to be able to say by 2012 if there are “lots
of earths in our galaxy or we are alone,” thanks to data sent to Earth