NASA's Kepler dazzles with first pics in new-Earth hunt

One snapshot, millions of stars


NASA's Kepler space telescope has sent home the first images of the starry patch of sky where it will soon begin the hunt for Earth-like planets.

The first snaps show Kepler's entire field of view, a 100-square-degree portion of the sky in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way, roughly equivalent to the size of two side-by-side dips of the Big Dipper.

The mission will spend the next three-and-a-half years scouring the area looking for minute fluctuations in the stars' brightness as their orbiting planets cross Kepler's field of view.

Scientists hope to find evidence of extra-solar worlds the size of Earth in habitable zones around stars like the Sun - planets that could be a suitable home for life as we know it.

"Kepler's first glimpse of the sky is awe-inspiring," said Lia LaPiana, Kepler's program executive at NASA DC headquarters. "To be able to see millions of stars in a single snapshot is simply breathtaking."

You're out there somewhere: 14 million stars in the full field of view

This first shot shows Kepler's full field of view, containing an estimated 14 million stars. More than 100,000 of these have been selected as candidates for the agency's planet hunting, NASA said.

The image has been color-coded to show brighter stars in white and fainter stars in red. It's a 60-second exposure taken on April 8, just one day after the spacecraft jettisoned its dust cover.

Lyra, Lyra, stars on fire-ra

This image zooms in on 0.2 per cent of Kepler's full field of view, showing hundreds of stars in the constellation Lyra.

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Meteoroid hits main mirror on James Webb Space Telescope
    Impact at the end of May bad enough to garble data, but NASA isn't worried

    The James Webb Space Telescope has barely had a chance to get to work, and it's already taken a micrometeoroid to its sensitive primary mirror.

    The NASA-built space observatory reached its final destination, the L2 orbit, a million miles away from Earth, at the end of January.

    In a statement, NASA said the impact happened some time at the end of May. Despite the impact being larger than any that NASA modeled and "beyond what the team could have tested on the ground," the space agency said the telescope continues to perform at higher-than-expected levels. The telescope has been hit on four previous occasions since launch.

    Continue reading
  • NASA wants nuclear reactor on the Moon by 2030
    Space boffins task engineers with creating 40kW lunar fission plant that can operate for ten years

    NASA has chosen the three companies it will fund to develop a nuclear fission reactor ready to test on the Moon by the end of the decade.

    This power plant is set to be a vital component of Artemis, the American space agency's most ambitious human spaceflight mission to date. This is a large-scale project to put the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, and establish a long-term presence on Earth's natural satellite.

    NASA envisions [PDF] astronauts living in a lunar base camp, bombing around in rovers, and using it as a launchpad to explore further out into the Solar System. In order for this to happen, it'll need to figure out how to generate a decent amount of power somehow.

    Continue reading
  • Whatever hit the Moon in March, it left this weird double crater
    NASA probe reveals strange hole created by suspected Chinese junk

    Pic When space junk crashed into the Moon earlier this year, it made not one but two craters on the lunar surface, judging from images revealed by NASA on Friday.

    Astronomers predicted a mysterious object would hit the Moon on March 4 after tracking the debris for months. The object was large, and believed to be a spent rocket booster from the Chinese National Space Administration's Long March 3C vehicle that launched the Chang'e 5-T1 spacecraft in 2014.

    The details are fuzzy. Space agencies tend to monitor junk closer to home, and don't really keep an eye on what might be littering other planetary objects. It was difficult to confirm the nature of the crash; experts reckoned it would probably leave behind a crater. Now, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has spied telltale signs of an impact at the surface. Pictures taken by the probe reveal an odd hole shaped like a peanut shell on the surface of the Moon, presumably caused by the Chinese junk.

    Continue reading
  • Returning to the Moon on the European Service Module
    Moving to series production and dealing with the US, where things are done slightly differently

    Interview NASA has set late August as the launch window for its much-delayed Artemis I rocket. Already perched atop the booster is the first flight-ready European Service Module (ESM). Five more are in the pipeline.

    Airbus industrial manager Siân Cleaver, whom The Register met at the Goodwood Festival of Speed's Future Lab, has the task of managing the assembly of the spacecraft, which will provide propulsion, power, water, oxygen and nitrogen for the Orion capsule.

    Looking for all the world like an evolution of the European Space Agency's (ESA) International Space Station (ISS) ATV freighter, the ESM is not pressurized and measures approximately 4 meters in length, including the Orbital Maneuvering System Engine (OMSE), which protrudes from the base.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022