Kepler Mission
NASA Spacecraft Equipped with a Space Observatory Designed to
Discover Earth-like Planets Orbiting other Stars

NASA's Kepler Mission
NASA Spacecraft Equipped with a Space Observatory Designed to Discover Earth-like Planets Orbiting other Stars

The Kepler Mission is a NASA space observatory designed to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. The spacecraft was launched on March 7th, 2009.

The mission is named in honor of German astronomer Johannes Kepler.

With a planned mission lifetime of at least 3.5 years, Kepler uses a photometer developed by NASA to continuously monitor the brightness of over 145,000 main sequence stars in a fixed field of view.

The data collected from these observations will be analyzed to detect periodic fluctuations that indicate the presence of extrasolar planets (planets outside our solar system) that are in the process of crossing the face of other stars.

Kepler is a mission under NASA's Discovery Program of low-cost, focused science missions.

The Kepler Mission is currently in active operation, with the first main results announced on January 4th, 2010. As expected, the initial discoveries were all short-period planets, with longer period planets expected later.

The first six weeks of data revealed five previously unknown planets, all very close to their stars.

Among the notable results are one of the least dense planets yet found, and two mystery objects that are planet sized but hotter than the stars they circle.

May was a busy month for the Kepler Mission. On May 12th, 2010, the Kepler project team marked the one-year anniversary of on-orbit operations.

As we commemorated the date, the team was in the final stages in its preparations to release Kepler’s first 43 days of science data to the public. Scheduled for June 15th, 2010, the data will include observations from more than 150,000 stars.

Meanwhile, the project successfully completed another monthly science data download on May 20th, 2010. This data volume was about 95 gigabytes, and represented Kepler’s Quarter 5, Month 2 collection.

As the download was completed, the team was already making preparations for the upcoming June science data download, scheduled for June 22-25, 2010.

The Kepler Mission, is specifically designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover dozens of Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone and determine how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy have such planets.

Results from this mission will allow us to place our solar system within the continuum of planetary systems in the Galaxy.


The Universe - Liquid Universe
Liquid is very rare in the Universe

On alien planets it rains from the sky as scalding iron. On distant moons, even at hundreds of degrees below zero, they slosh around in lakes of methane. They can cover planets in oceans of electrified hydrogen metal.

They churn in dead stars and even our planet. They're so rare in the universe, they almost don't exist, but these are the liquids of our Liquid Universe.

The Earth's terrain varies greatly from place to place. About 70.8% of the surface is covered by water, with much of the continental shelf below sea level.

The submerged surface has mountainous features, including a globe-spanning mid-ocean ridge system, as well as undersea volcanoes, oceanic trenches, submarine canyons, oceanic plateaus and abyssal plains.

The remaining 29.2% not covered by water consists of mountains, deserts, plains, plateaus, and other geomorphologies.

The planetary surface undergoes reshaping over geological time periods because of tectonics and erosion. The surface features built up or deformed through plate tectonics are subject to steady weathering from precipitation, thermal cycles, and chemical effects.

Glaciation, coastal erosion, the build-up of coral reefs, and large meteorite impacts also act to reshape the landscape.

Some Facts About the Kepler Mission

NASA Kepler Mission Launch

  • Kepler is the world's first mission with the ability to find true Earth analogs -- planets that orbit stars like our sun in the "habitable zone."

    The habitable zone is the region around a star where the temperature is just right for water -- an essential ingredient for life as we know it -- to pool on a planet's surface.
  • By the end of Kepler's three-and-one-half-year mission, it will give us a good idea of how common or rare other Earths are in our Milky Way galaxy.

    This will be an important step in answering the age-old question: Are we alone?
  • Kepler detects planets by looking for periodic dips in the brightness of stars. Some planets pass in front of their stars as seen from our point of view on Earth; when they do, they cause their stars to dim slightly, an event Kepler can see.
  • Kepler has the largest camera ever launched into space, a 95-megapixel array of charge-coupled devices, or CCDs, like those in everyday digital cameras.
  • Kepler's telescope is so powerful that, from its view up in space, it could detect one person in a small town turning off a porch light at night.