05 Apr '12, 9pm

Alien Earth Hunter Gets New Lease on Life

Alien Earth Hunter Gets New Lease on Life

NASA has awarded extensions to nine of its astrophysics missions, including Kepler , a space telescope that hunts for planets around other stars. The extension, which could keep Kepler in operation until 2016, should be a boon for the hunt for Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars, which requires observations spanning years. Kepler was just getting started, having launched in March 2009. The $600 million telescope hunts for exoplanets by staring at a patch of sky containing some 4.5 million Milky Way stars. It uses a 95-megapixel camera to register slight dips in stellar brightness that signal a planet's passage across its host star. Despite launching with some unexpectedly noisy CCDs , the telescope has proved an efficient planet-finder, turning up 61 confirmed exoplanets and more than 2000 additional candidate worlds. In December, it bagged its first potentially habit...

Full article: http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/aerospace/astrophysics...

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