Archive for Friday, March 6, 2009

Telescope to hunt for Earth-like planets

This artist’s rendition provided by NASA shows the Kepler space telescope, which is designed to search for Earth-like planets in the Milky Way galaxy.

This artist’s rendition provided by NASA shows the Kepler space telescope, which is designed to search for Earth-like planets in the Milky Way galaxy.

March 6, 2009

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— NASA will soon be on the lookout for possible Earths in one faraway corner of the galaxy.

A planet-hunting spacecraft, named Kepler after the German 17th-century astrophysicist, is scheduled to rocket away from Cape Canaveral tonight. Excellent launch weather is expected.

The telescope will spend 3 1/2 years staring at roughly 100,000 stars, measuring their brightness and any winks in the light that might signify orbiting planets.

“We certainly won’t find E.T., but we might find E.T.’s home by looking at all of these stars,” Bill Boruki, Kepler’s principal scientist, said Thursday.

Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said Kepler is not just another science mission.

“It very possibly could tell us that Earths are very, very common, that we have lots of neighbors out there, or it could tell us that Earths are really, really, really rare,” Weiler said.

“Perhaps we’re the only Earth. I think that would be a very bad answer because I, for one, don’t want to live in an empty universe where we’re the best there is. That’s a scary thought to many of us.”

Kepler will be scouting for Earth-size planets circling stars in the so-called habitable or Goldilocks zone. That’s where planets are neither too close nor too far from their star, and where conditions could be ripe for liquid water on the surface.

The stars to be observed by Kepler are between 600 and 3,000 light years away.

Kepler is 15 feet high and 9 feet in diameter. The mission costs $600 million, from start to finish.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

"Yes - let's continue to spend trillions on escapist fantasies."

Probably not such a bad idea if we're going to continue to spend $trillions making the only planet we have uninhabitable.

gr 6 years, 2 months ago

"Probably not such a bad idea if we're going to continue to spend $trillions"

So, bozo, you are saying if we are spending money for something you disagree with, then we should also spend money on fantasies? What kind of logic is that?

salad 6 years, 2 months ago

gr (Anonymous) says…

“Probably not such a bad idea if we're going to continue to spend $trillions”

"So, bozo, you are saying if we are spending money for something you disagree with, then we should also spend money on fantasies? What kind of logic is that?"

So gr, by extension of your own argument, does that mean you're in favor of spending trillions to make the earth uninhabitable? Let's look at your day so far: 1. Bury head in sand......check! 2. Get tripped up by own words....check! 3. Make futile tirades against things that I don't understand, people who aren't like me, and things that frighten me.....check!

alf4kat 6 years, 2 months ago

Personally I think that spending the money to find out if there are other Earth-like planets out there is worth it. Just knowing that there might be life somewhere out in the universe is exciting to me and I'd like to know more about what is possibly out there. I think that people who find spending $ on programs like this is a waste should take some time to think about why they feel it's a waste. For those people I ask you "Would'nt you like to know if were alone? Don't you want to know why there's so many types of life on our planet but we have'nt found life anywhere else yet?" That's my question.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

This falls into the category of "basic research." We need to be spending much more than we do on basic research, although not necessarily on the space program. For example, in some respects, we know more about space than we do our own oceans.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 2 months ago

Maybe Barry can find a Surgeon General on a distant planet.

gr 6 years, 2 months ago

salad, you missed my point and bozo's opposite. Do you think two wrongs make a right? Why not correct the first wrong rather than add another?

How is YOUR day going?

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