The Kepler Satellite – Do You Have Any Idea What It Is?

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I always enjoy running across NASA-related news.  What many people don’t know about NASA is that a whole bunch of their business is related to light – light from stars and light reflected off of planets (and moons) can tell us how far away something is located.  “Something,” in this case, could be a star system, supernova explosion, planet group, or something that sucks light – black holes, gas formations, and some really untalented lighting designers I know who have such large egos they have their own home light years from Earth.

So – now that my joke of the post has been launched and crashed into the ground a few feet from the launch pad (you liking all of these space puns?), this is all related to NASA’s Kepler Satellite Program.  It’s all named after Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), an astronomer that invented and discovered a lot of things still used in Astronomy today.  Kepler figured out that our planet (and others) rotates on its axis, explained how our vision and refraction are related, and among a ton of other stuff, explained total internal reflection.

The Kepler Satellite and program is new – Kepler launched in March 2009.  The Data that is being collected is really new, and really strange.  NASA peeps are still analyzing and collecting data – but what kind of data?

The gist of the Kepler program is to use a satellite with a powerful photometer inside that looks for really bright stars like our Sun that could have planetary systems revolving around them.  So, what does this mean?  It means the Kepler mission is seeking out planetary systems around a Sun-like star that could sustain life.  How cool is that?!  The image at the top of this post is the field of view of Kepler.

Ladies and Gentlemen – the Kepler Satellite:

satellite-photometer

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This thing is pretty cool – a nearly meter and a half mirror inside directs light into the internal photometer and camera, which is 95 megapixels (42 CCDs with 2200×1024 pixels), from the NASA site on Kepler.  Check out the entirety of the specs here, on the Kepler satellite mission guide page.  Below is a starmap, with Kepler’s field of view (the group of squares):

kepler-fov

Cool stuff!  Check out NASA’s Kepler Mission site.  Give them some traffic!

Thanks, NASA!