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Kepler spacecraft sees its first exoplanets

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posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 02:14 PM

The planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has found its first extrasolar planets: three alien worlds that had been previously discovered with ground-based telescopes. The finds confirm that Kepler's instruments are sensitive enough to detect Earth-like planets around sun-like stars – but they might also be unexpectedly sensitive to charged particles in space that can zap circuitry.

Kepler launched on 6 March with a simple charge: Stare at a swatch of sky for three and a half years, and look for Earths. The telescope will hunt transiting exoplanets, planets that pass in front of their stars and dim their brightness at regular intervals.

New Scientist Article

I wonder what we are yet going to find with this telescope, i guess the more earth like planets detected the more chance we have of finding outside civilisation.

posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 02:28 PM
good to see the telescope performing well.

the results will make very interesting reading at the end of its 4 year mission.

posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 02:36 PM
If Kepler found another Earth tomorrow... do you think they would actually wait 4 years to announce it?

posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 02:41 PM
reply to post by Larryman

I guess if they did there would be no harm in telling us, its not like confirming the existence of an earth like planet means life is there 100%. Although in my opinion its gives a good indication that there might be, whether or not its intelligent life would be the big question.

posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 02:46 PM
reply to post by Larryman

they need a bigger dataset to find earth sized planets in earth-like orbits. At least 1 year approx. Even then it would be a candidate they would need to wait another year to see the signal again to confirm.

The stars variablility can look like these planet signals too so they need to rule out noise.

I dont know what approach they will take to announcing earth-like cadidates. They dont want to announce something then later see its just noise from the star and have to retract it. makes them look bad. Especially with something as big as this.

They might wait 3 years or so if the data is good enough. Maybe after 2 years we will hear statements like "we have several candidates but awaiting more data to confirm" i doubt they will give details until they are sure.

[edit on 6-8-2009 by yeti101]

posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 02:47 PM
New Scientist is using a bit of hyperbole.

The term Earth-like is not really very accurate. Part of the Kepler mission is to locate Earth sized planets within the habitable zones of stars. That's the limit of the resemblance that Kepler is capable of discerning, size and distance from its star. It cannot determine temperature, atmospheric makeup (or even if there is an atmosphere), or the presence of water. To really call a planet Earth-like these things would have to be observed.

The scientific objective of the Kepler Mission is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems. This is achieved by surveying a large sample of stars to:

1. Determine the percentage of terrestrial and larger planets there are in or near the habitable zone of a wide variety of stars;
2. Determine the distribution of sizes and shapes of the orbits of these planets;
3. Estimate how many planets there are in multiple-star systems;
4. Determine the variety of orbit sizes and planet reflectivities, sizes, masses and densities of short-period giant planets;
5. Identify additional members of each discovered planetary system using other techniques; and
6. Determine the properties of those stars that harbor planetary systems.

[edit on 8/6/2009 by Phage]

posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 03:35 PM
reply to post by Phage

Yeah i know what you mean. Would it not be possible to estimate temperature from the info we would have about the local star?

I have read about the "goldilocks zone" before, the area where its just right for life to evolve from what we know looking at our planet. I guess what the article means when it says "earth like" is planets that exist in that area, also the size of them.

posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 03:39 PM
reply to post by refuse_orders

yep its orbit and size.

We can guess the temperature but we have to apply an atmosphere. If we give the planet an earth like atmosphere then yes it will potentially have liquid water on the surface. If we give the planet a venus like atmosphere it will not have liquid water.

if keplers results are positive future space telescopes will be able to tell us the composition of these atmospheres. If they are like earth, mars, venus or something diffirent.

[edit on 6-8-2009 by yeti101]

posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 04:54 PM
reply to post by Phage

Yes, and how! Not very Earthlike, but still exciting:

The observations were collected from a planet called HAT-P-7, known to transit a star located about 1,000 light years from Earth. The planet orbits the star in just 2.2 days and is 26 times closer than Earth is to the sun. Its orbit, combined with a mass somewhat larger than the planet Jupiter, classifies this planet as a "hot Jupiter." It is so close to its star, the planet is as hot as the glowing red heating element on a kitchen stove.

NASA linkinoid

posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 05:21 PM
reply to post by argentus

That's wild! A 2.2 day "year".

The star has 1.5 times the mass of the Sun and the planet is orbiting at a distance of only .04 AU. That's 10 times closer than Mercury is to the Sun.

The tidal forces must be terrifying.

posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 05:40 PM
reply to post by Phage


Tidal forces?

Wouldnt all liquids there be turned to gasses due to the extreme heat

posted on Aug, 6 2009 @ 05:48 PM
Well the planet is a gas giant but tidal forces don't just apply to liquids.

I'm sure the dominant unpleasantness would be due to the heat of the star but the tidal stresses and strains put on the planet as a whole would add to the awesome awfulness of the place.

[edit on 8/6/2009 by Phage]

posted on Aug, 7 2009 @ 04:38 AM
reply to post by Phage

Yes, so much so it hardly seems possible that a planet (especially a gaseous one) could survive in such an orbit for long. Wouldn't stellar discharges - the analogue of our solar wind - strip it of its atmosphere, even as its solid regions sublimated in the heat and tidal forces ripped it apart?

Anyone care to speculate about how it continues to survive - and for how long it will?

posted on Aug, 7 2009 @ 08:03 AM
reply to post by Astyanax

depends how close it is and how big it is. At 0.02AU a hot jupiter will lose about 10% of its mass over the stars lifetime. Orbiting closer than 0.015 can mean evaporation of the whole planet during that time.

posted on Aug, 9 2009 @ 12:26 AM
reply to post by yeti101

Thank you. Those are very specific figures. May I ask (unsceptically) where you found the information?

posted on Aug, 9 2009 @ 01:12 AM
I cant wait, our great great great great Grand kids maybe be aliens to another habitable planet someday!

posted on Aug, 9 2009 @ 04:58 AM
Kepler telescope makes quick discovery

NASA scientists who put the telescope through a 10-day test after its March 6 launch said this week that Kepler is working well. Its ability to detect minute changes in light has enabled scientists to determine that a planet orbiting a distant star has an atmosphere, shows only one side to its sun and is so hot it glows.

Kepler's ability to take measurements that precise at such a great distance "proves we can find Earth-size planets," William Borucki, Kepler's principal science investigator told reporters at a recent briefing.

The powerful scope is looking at thousands of stars in its vision field in the Milky Way on a 3½-year mission to find planets the size of Earth and to determine how common these planets are.

The planet used in the test, a giant gas planet about the size of Jupiter, orbits a star called HAT P-7 in just 2.2 days and is 26 times closer than Earth is to the sun, according to NASA. It is called an exoplanet because it orbits a star outside the solar system.

Kepler detected the planet's atmosphere, demonstrating the telescope's capabilities and giving astronomers what NASA says is "only a taste of things to come."

"It learned that this planet is like 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That is so hot. And it's 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit just on one side only. The other side would be closer to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, " said Sara Seager, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Kepler science team member.

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