Tags: NASA | earth | search

NASA Readies Mission to Find Earth-like Planets

Friday, 20 Feb 2009 10:36 AM

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink

WASHINGTON -- NASA is preparing to launch next month the Kepler spacecraft with a new space telescope that for the first time will be capable of detecting Earth-like planets outside our solar system, project managers said.

It will be the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's first mission in search of Earth-like planets orbiting suns similar to ours, at just the right distance and temperature for life-sustaining water to exist.

"Kepler will push back the boundaries of the unknown in our patch of the Milky Way galaxy. And its discoveries may fundamentally alter humanity's view of itself," Jon Morse, astrophysics division director at the US space agency's Washington headquarters, told a press conference Thursday.

"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," he added.

Equipped with the largest camera ever launched into space -- a 95-megapixel array of charged couple devices, known as CCDs - the Kepler telescope is able to detect the faint, periodic dimming of stars that planets cause as they pass by.

At a cost of close to 600 million dollars, the Kepler mission will last three years and examine more than 100,000 sun-like stars in the regions of the Swan and Lyre constellations in the Milky Way.

William Borucki, Kepler's principal investigator based at NASA's Ames Research Center in California, said the project was about finding places where conditions are perfect for sustaining life.

"What we're interested in finding are planets that are not too hot and not to cold, but just right," he said.

"We're looking for planets where the temperature is just about right for liquid water on the surface of the planet."

The telescope, set to stare at a single patch of sky throughout its mission, can watch for the stars that are affected by planets.

"Earth-size planets in habitable zones would theoretically take about a year to complete one orbit," so Kepler's three-year lifespan enables the project to confirm a planet's presence by observing its subtle impact on the star it orbits, NASA said in a statement.

"If we find that many, it certainly will mean that life may well be common throughout our galaxy, that there is an opportunity for life to have a place to evolve," noted Borucki.

"If none or only a few of these planets are found, it might suggest that habitable planets like Earth are very rare and Earth may be a lonely outpost for life," he said.

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit www.nasa.gov/kepler

© 2009 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

-

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Google Wants to Fly Drones Over New Mexico

Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 14:28 PM

Google is planning to begin testing drones in a virtually uninhabited area of New Mexico in pursuit of providing interne . . .

Bezos and Musk Go Head-to-Head in Skies and in Court

Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 12:43 PM

From cyberspace to outer space, the battle for supremacy between Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and PayPal founder Elon Musk  . . .

Boeing Likely To Be NASA's Choice for Space Taxi

Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 10:26 AM

Boeing appears to have won a large contract to build spacecraft that would take astronauts to and from orbit for NASA.  . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved