Kepler camera launched: Other “earths”, where are you?

March 7th, 2009 - 11:27 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 7 (DPA) NASA late Friday sent the Kepler satellite into Earth’s orbit with instructions to search for extraterrestrial life on Earth-type planets orbiting other stars.
The launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida on board a Delta-II-rocket was reported on a live blog operated by the Kepler project on the internet.

The Kepler mission, named after the 17th century German astronomer, is targetting about 100,000 stars in the Milky Way galaxy that scientists believe could have planets orbiting in a “habitable” zone.

The orbiting camera will be looking for shadows moving across the stars, which would indicate planetary movement and help measure the length of the orbits.

“If it orbits very fast, it will be a very hot planet,” said William Borucki, NASA’s principle investigator for the Kepler project, last month. “If the planet has a long orbital period, it will be very cold, we expect it would be forever frozen.”

The mission will eliminate both extremes as scientists, like Goldilocks, search for the planets that are “not too hot, not too cold, but just right”, Borucki said.

The $591 million mission is slated to last for three and a half years, but the Kepler camera will be outfitted to last six years, in anticipation that funding would be extended, NASA scientists said.

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