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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Kepler Telescope Launched - In Search Of Earth-like Planets

NASA launched the Kepler telescope aboard a Delta II rocket on Friday night from Cape Canaveral. The telescope, named after 17th-century German astrophysicist Johannes Kepler, is on a mission to seek potentially habitable planets by staring at approximately 100,000 stars some 600 to 3,000 light years away in the so-called habitable zone. "If one of them has a planet like the Earth going around it and if that planet happens to pass in front of that star, the star will get just a little dimmer, then a little brighter for a while as the planet eclipses it," according to CBC's science correspondent Bob McDonald. Over the past 10 years 300 or so planets have been identified to be orbiting stars outside our solar system, but they are largely gaseous planets like Jupiter. Kepler's mission is to look for smaller Earth-like planets.