Monday, March 9, 2009

A long term plan for getting the hell off this planet . . . 2.0

I am eating this stuff up!
Kepler Rises

From DailyKos' resident science buff, DarkSyde

Mankind's most ambitious mission to find habitable planets orbiting distant stars roared into the night sky from Cape Canaveral, Florida, Friday evening at 10:49 PM. Perched atop the Delta II rocket is a revolutionary observatory designed to detect earth-like planets thousands of light-years away. NASA's newest mission is appropriately named after one the most influential pioneers of modern planetary astronomy, Johannes Kepler. . . .

. . . Kepler is basically a horrendously accurate photometer married to a powerful wide view telescope that will trail the earth in deep space, undeterred by earth's shadow, designed to detect minute changes in stellar brightness as planets cross in front of a parent star. The accuracy of Kepler's photometer is so sensitive that it could detect a moth fluttering in front of a searchlight from hundreds of miles away. Only a tiny fraction of exosolar systems are likely to align in such a way that one or more planets conveniently eclipses its sun from our local perspective, but Kepler can look at one-hundred thousand stars at once!

The instrument should be able to detect the transit of smaller, more earthlike worlds along with their larger siblings, and hopefully produce a fair estimate on their size and mass. Future space and earth-based observatories will build on Kepler's results to obtain spectra, and maybe one day the first ever direct images, revealing the atmospheric and surface composition of some of these new planets.
This is effin schweet! Next step in my plan? Slash the military budget by about 90%, and then re-direct them rockets and lasers and stuff toward efforts to explore Enceladus, a watery moon of Jupiter.

Exploring the universe . . . sure beats blowing each other to smithereens.

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