This is Where We’re Going

Kepler

The Kepler Mission finds planets by seeking transit patterns

The Kepler Team announced today 833 new candidate planets, including 10 Earth-sized bodies orbiting their suns within the habitable zone. Just two years ago, the Kepler Team announced its first confirmed habitable zone planet, Kepler-22b.  This brings the grand total of Earth-sized planets

Kepler’s mission is to determine the percentage of sun-like stars harboring small planets of Earth’s approximate size and temperature. The Kepler space telescope has simultaneously and continuously monitored the brightness of more than 150,000 stars, recording a measurement every 30 minutes. More than a year of the collected data remains to be fully reviewed and analyzed. William Borucki, Kepler science principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, said at the second Kepler Science Conference this week:

“The impact of the Kepler mission results on exoplanet research and stellar astrophysics is illustrated by the attendance of nearly 400 scientists from 30 different countries at the Kepler Science Conference.”

Image of star luminosity over time as studied by planet hunters seeking tell-tale signs of planets in transit

In addition, the mission has received the volunteer help of thousands of ametuer planet hunters through the online system hosted by Ames for the Kepler Mission. See the Kepler Planet Hunter Page and/or visit PlanetHunters.org to participate.

Learning about Earth-like planets in the heavens is not just an exercise in idle curiosity. Information about other planets help us understand the universe around us, can help us understand our own world and its environment, and may ultimately help us build a map upon which missions can be based as technology grows to the point of making interstellar travel–either automated or manned–practical. To that end, we don’t know exactly what we would find. But for now, that’s the point.

One of my novels begins in the near future after much of this information is cataloged and understood. As it turns out, that isn’t enough, and surprises still remain for reasons you can learn after the book is published. But for the time being, to get more information about the Kepler Mission in general, go to its site by clicking HERE. For more information about today’s announcement,  perform a search or see this NASA article HERE.

From the first three years of Kepler data, more than 3,500 potential worlds have emerged. Since the last update in January, the number of planet candidates identified by Kepler increased by 29 percent and now totals 3,538, analysis led by Jason Rowe, a SETI research scientist.
Image Credit: SETI

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3 Responses to This is Where We’re Going

  1. nancyrae4 says:

    Fantastic! Maybe, one day, our great-great-great grandkids will get to one of these new worlds!

  2. John V Conway says:

    WOW! What excitement, but not unexpected, right?

  3. J. C. Conway says:

    It may take a while. But in all examples I can recall, maps ultimately lead to journeys.

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