NASA: Kepler begins search for other Earths
Spacecraft takes images of Milky Way in its hunt for Earth-like planets
Computerworld - NASA reported today that its Kepler spacecraft has begun to search for other Earth-like planets.
The spacecraft, which is carrying a telescope and a series of computers, was launched into space on March 6. Kepler is expected to spend the next three and a half years searching more than 100,000 stars for signs of Earth-like planets. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Kepler mission is the first set up specifically to find planets like ours -- small, rocky habitable planets orbiting sun-like stars in the habitable zone.
The craft is expected to drift away from the Earth at a rate of 10 million miles per year.
Kepler still is within a two-month period of calibrations and testing. Early last week, NASA engineers successfully popped off a protective dust cover from Kepler's telescope. With the dust cover off, the spacecraft can begin gathering images and sending them back to Earth.
"The cover released and flew away exactly as we designed it to do," said Kepler project manager James Fanson, in a statement made last week. "This is a critical step toward answering a question that has come down to us across 100 generations of human history: Are there other planets like Earth, or are we alone in the galaxy?"
The first images that the spacecraft has sent back to NASA show a "vast starry field" in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way galaxy, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. One image shows millions of stars in the craft's full field of view, while two other images zoom in specific sections of that region.
"Kepler's first glimpse of the sky is awe-inspiring," said Lia LaPiana, Kepler's program executive, in a statement. "To be able to see millions of stars in a single snapshot is simply breathtaking."
"It's thrilling to see this treasure trove of stars," said William Borucki, science principal investigator for Kepler. "We expect to find hundreds of planets circling those stars, and for the first time, we can look for Earth-size planets in the habitable zones around other stars like the sun," he added.
The telescope aboard Kepler eventually will measure the brightness of the stars every half hour, allowing scientists to detect any dimming in their brightness caused by orbiting planets passing in front of them.
Based on the dimming of a star's light, NASA scientists should be able to calculate the size of an orbiting planet, along with whether it has a solid surface and if there's the potential for it to have liquid water, which scientists say is crucial to the formation of life.
Read more about Government IT in Computerworld's Government IT Topic Center.
- Silicon Valley's 19 Coolest Places to Work
- Is Windows 8 Development Worth the Trouble?
- 8 Books Every IT Leader Should Read This Year
- 10 Hot Hadoop Startups to Watch
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
This state transportation department uses computer science students from a local university as programming interns, and everyone is happy with the arrangement -- until one intern learns how to bring down the mainframe.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Changing the Way Government Works: Four Technology Trends that Drive Down Costs and Increase Productivity
- This paper discusses four technology-based approaches to improving processes and increasing
productivity while driving down department and agency costs.
- Logicalis eBook: SAP HANA: The Need for Speed
- Without timely business insights, organizations today can suffer logistical, manufacturing, and even financial disaster in a matter of minutes
- Neustar 2014 DDoS Attacks and Impact Report
- For the third consecutive year, Neustar surveyed hundreds of companies on distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. The survey reveals evidence that the...
- Acxiom Case Study
- This case study, which focuses on Acxiom, explores how the company was able to secure employee data, reduce migration costs and boost productivity...
- Windows® XP Migration: Protect and Secure Critical Data
- With the end of the Microsoft Windows XP operating system's lifecycle on April 8, 2014, businesses are faced with the decision to migrate... All Government IT White Papers
- Top 4 Digital Signage Fails Join RMG Networks for a look at four of the most common reasons digital signage fails in corporate businesses. Learn about strategies to...
- Building Tomorrow's Infrastructure Listen to this podcast to discover how Crider Foods worked with PC Connection to update their IT infrastructure, while maintaining compliance and control.
Enhance Your Virtualization Infrastructure With IBM and Vmware
Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Virtualization technology is now expanding beyond the server compute elements to encompass networking and storage...
Transforming Finance, Procurement and Supply Chain Effectiveness with Cross-Functional Analytics
Date: May 6th, 2014
Time: 1 PM EDT
Attend this Webcast to find out how Oracle's packaged analytic applications enable line-of-business managers to examine all...
- Cloud Knowledge Vault Learn how your organization can benefit from the scalability, flexibility, and performance that the cloud offers through the short videos and other resources...
- All Government IT Webcasts