08  Feb - Kepler Mission

On BoingBoing the guest blogger Lee Billings is doing a great job of summarizing what’s been recently discovered from the Kepler mission. Kepler is a space telescope like Hubble, also named after an astronomer. Its purpose is to stare at a small patch of sky for several years looking for planets around the stars in its field of view. There are two main ways of seeing these planets, the direct and indirect methods (sounds like something from Roman Holiday…). The indirect method looks at the star to see if it wobbles, meaning it has something gravitationally bound to it pulling it to a side as the planet orbits it. The direct method basically looks for eclipses. It watches for when planets transit in front of the star, dimming it. This several year survey of this one patch of sky has recently yielded the first results, biased towards small stars with planets orbiting close to it, and thus their “years” are significantly less than an Earth year. That said, planets are ridiculously common it seems, something we suspected for a long time but now have direct observations of. Here is Lee’s interview with one of the involved astronomers.

Posted by MikeS, filed under astronomy. Date: February 8, 2011, 5:20 pm | Comments Off on Kepler Mission

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