Ho Hum: another momentus event . . .

Artist concept of Kepler in space. Credit: NASA/JPL

Artist concept of Kepler in space. Credit: NASA/JPL

From Universe Today

The checkout and calibration phase for the Kepler spacecraft has been completed, and now the telescope will begin one of the longest and most important stare-downs ever attempted. Kepler will spend the next three-and-a-half years staring at more than 100,000 starssearching for telltale signs of planets. Kepler should have the ability to find planets as small as Earth that orbit sun-like stars at distances where temperatures are right for possible lakes and oceans. Now the fun begins, said William Borucki, Kepler science principal investigator for the mission. We are all really excited to start sorting through the data and discovering the planets.

During the checkout phase scientists have collected data to characterize the imaging performance as well as the noise level in the measurement electronics. The scientists have constructed the list of targets for the start of the planet search, and this information has been loaded onto the spacecraft. 

If Kepler got into a staring contest, it would win, said James Fanson, Kepler project manager at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The spacecraft is ready to stare intently at the same stars for several years so that it can precisely measure the slightest changes in their brightness caused by planets. Kepler will hunt for planets by looking for periodic dips in the brightness of stars events that occur when orbiting planets cross in front of their stars and partially block the light.

The missions first finds are expected to be large, gas planets situated close to their stars. Such discoveries could be announced as early as next year.

Below the fold: guess what those sun-spots really are!  Hint, the larger one is what it looks like.  The smaller one is where it’s been lately.

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12 years ago

“I wonder what it will mean to people when we find the first extrasolar earth-sized rocky planet?”
I’ll admit it, I can’t wait.

12 years ago

Sorry I can’t help myself – you’re an ‘o’ short up there.

Also, what Conrad said. I still feel like a little kid when I think about this stuff.

12 years ago

Me too. I’d feel even sillier if I didn’t.

12 years ago

I follow Mike Massimino on Twitter, one of the Hubble repair astronauts, and its pretty shiver-making to get updates from orbit in real time. I have to stop and think about what an achievement it all is, otherwise it does seem normal and not the gobsmacking event each one of them is.