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(CNN) -- Calling it a mission that may fundamentally change humanity's view of itself, NASA on Friday prepared to launch a telescope that will search our corner of the Milky Way galaxy for Earth-like planets.
This image shows part of the Milky Way region of the sky where the Kepler spacecraft will be pointing.
1 of 3 The Kepler spacecraft is scheduled to blast into space on top of a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida just before 11 p.m. ET.
"This is a historical mission. It's not just a science mission," NASA Associate Administrator Ed Weiler said during a pre-launch news conference.
"It really attacks some very basic human questions that have been part of our genetic code since that first man or woman looked up in the sky and asked the question: Are we alone?"
Kepler contains a special telescope that will stare at 100,000 stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way for more than three years as it trails Earth's orbit around the Sun.
The spacecraft will look for tiny dips in a star's brightness, which can mean an orbiting planet is passing in front of it -- an event called a transit. Watch how astronomers will try to find 'Earths' »
The instrument is so precise that it can register changes in brightness of 20 parts per million in stars that are thousands of light years away.
"Being able to make that kind of a sensitive measurement over a very large number of stars was extremely challenging," Kepler project manager James Fanson said.
"So we're very proud of the vehicle we have built. This is a crowning achievement for NASA and a monumental step in our search for other worlds around other stars." See what the telescope looks like and which part of the galaxy it will monitor »
Are we alone?...
If life is ubiquitous in the universe, and, provided that evolution is progressive, given that evolved man would represent a very recent addition, maybe even the latest, due to the vast time spans involved - then, while the socio-political, technological and, presumably, spiritual evolution, of other highly evolved beings would by far exceed our own by many many orders of magnitude, perhaps man, though last may be first in the long march of evolutionary progress.
Furthermore, if modern physics is at least in part an accurate description of reality in its depiction of a non-local, transluminally interconnected, holographic universe, then I would have to say that we are not living up to our responsibilities here at the apex of cosmic evolution.
Let us therefore eminate love with all our hearts, mind, strength and soul.
"Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."
And I'm betting that by the end..... we will have found hundreds to hundreds of thousands of rocky planets!
Originally posted by OmegaPoint
Question: Are all the planets in a system on the same orbital plane, and would they all transit from our perspective? Every model you see of our solar system seems to have them all on the same plane, but maybe that's just a convention.
So, if they are looking at 100,000 star systems, and they only expect 1% to be at the right orientation to capture a transit, then that's 1000, and of those they are hoping for 100 earth-type planets in the "Goldielocks" zone, is that about right?
Originally posted by yeti101
well i just read on their website they put the chance at only 0.5% for the right orbital inclination. That brings us down to detecting 50 earthlike planets. These numbers are all guess work it will be interesting to see what they actually find.
you can read more about it here kepler.nasa.gov...
[edit on 7-3-2009 by yeti101]
And of those 50, maybe 1 would be capable of sustaining intelligent life
They need to be looking at more like a million to get a proper sampling.
Originally posted by tothetenthpower
Well as far as them transmitting "data" to us, I think that will come fairely quick as NASA seems to be very GUN HO about what's going on in the universe these days.
IMO they already know of dozens of livable planets among other things and this is just "fluff" news to keep us in awe of they're awesome accomplishments.
To think they put a man on the moon over three decades ago and they want us to believe that they've made no significant discoveries of life or other terra forming planets since?