Out of This World

Image Courtesy NASA
Image Courtesy NASA

NASA’s Kepler Mission, our eyes in the outer edges of the galaxy.

NASA’s new exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope has detected the atmosphere of a known giant gas planet, demonstrating the telescope’s extraordinary scientific capabilities. The discovery will be published Friday, Aug. 7, in the journal Science.

(FYI, a subscription fee is required to access Science’s online content).

More from the NASA site:

“As NASA’s first exoplanets mission, Kepler has made a dramatic entrance on the planet-hunting scene,” said Jon Morse, director of the Science Mission Directorate’s Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Detecting this planet’s atmosphere in just the first 10 days of data is only a taste of things to come. The planet hunt is on!”

Kepler team members say these new data indicate the mission is indeed capable of finding Earth-like planets, if they exist. Kepler will spend the next three-and-a-half years searching for planets as small as Earth, including those that orbit stars in a warm zone where there could be water. It will do this by looking for periodic dips in the brightness of stars, which occur when orbiting planets transit, or cross in front of, the stars.

I downloaded the picture above to my desktop as wallpaper. It’s my new Keeping Perspective Of My Own Size system.

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