Kepler satellite mission to find Earth-sized planets

Keep up with Astronomy magazine's coverage of the Kepler mission. Here you'll find the latest headlines and blogs about Kepler.
By | Published: March 6, 2009 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Kepler mission objectives
January 5, 2010
News: Kepler space telescope discovers five exoplanets
NASA’s Kepler space telescope, designed to find Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of Sun-like stars, has discovered its first five new exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system. Read the full story.

August 7, 2009
News: Kepler mission spies changing phases in a distant world.
NASA’s new exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope has detected the atmosphere of a known gas giant planet. Read the full news story.

June 25, 2009
News: Kepler mission data to go through Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)
The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore is partnering on a historic search for Earth-size planets around other stars. STScI is the data archive center for NASA’s Kepler mission, a spacecraft that is undertaking a survey for Earth-size planets in our region of the galaxy. The spacecraft sent its first raw science data to STScI June 19. Read the full news story.

May 15, 2009
News: Kepler’s planet-hunt begins
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has begun its search for other earthlike worlds. The mission that launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, March 6, 2009, will spend the next 3.5 years staring at more than 100,000 stars for telltale signs of planets. Kepler has the unique ability to find planets as small as Earth that orbit Sun-like stars at distances where temperatures are right for possible lakes and oceans. Read the full news story.

April 16, 2009
News: Kepler captures first views of planet-hunting territory
NASA’s Kepler mission has taken its first images of the star-rich sky where it will soon begin hunting for planets like Earth.

The new “first light” images show the mission’s target patch of sky, a vast starry field in the Cygnus-Lyra region of our Milky Way Galaxy. One image shows millions of stars in Kepler’s full field of view, while two others zoom in on portions of the larger region. Read the full news story.

April 8, 2009
News: Dust cover jettisoned from Kepler telescope
Engineers have successfully ejected the dust cover from NASA’s Kepler telescope, a space mission soon to begin searching for worlds like Earth.

“The cover released and flew away exactly as we designed it to do,” said Kepler Project Manager James Fanson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “This is a critical step toward answering a question that has come down to us across generations of human history – are there other planets like Earth, or are we alone in the galaxy”? Read the full news story.

March 10, 2009
News: Keck Telescope to observe Kepler finds
For nearly a decade, University of California at Berkeley astronomer Geoff Marcy and his colleagues have been using the W. M. Keck telescopes to discover giant planets orbiting distant stars. Now, with the successful launch of NASA’s Kepler mission, they will be using Keck I’s 10-meter astronomical eye to discover distant Earths. Kepler will pick out earthlike candidates. Keck will then zero in on them and determine if they are at all similar to our planet. Read the full news story.

March 6, 2009
Editor blog: Kepler satellite launches successfully

At 340 exoplanets and counting, astronomers tonight are much closer to discovering some more that might resemble our own. At 10:49:57 p.m. EST, a Delta II rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It sent the Kepler Telescope into an Earth-trailing heliocentric (Sun-centered) orbit with a period of 372.5 days. Read the full blog entry.

March 5, 2009
Editor blog: The planet search continues with Kepler

Recently, I edited a story for the magazine about NASA’s Kepler Telescope and its search for earthlike planets outside our solar system. It’s a fascinating spacecraft and mission, and I’ll be following its progress closely. What’s more, NASA has scheduled the spacecraft to rocket into the night sky this Friday, March 6, from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Read the full blog entry.

March 3, 2009
News: Planet-finding mission set to launch March 6

This year, astronomers will continue their planet quest with a specialized spacecraft designed to detect earthlike planets around stars similar to the Sun. NASA has scheduled the Kepler mission for launch no earlier than March 6. There are two launch windows, from 10:49 p.m. – 10:52 p.m. and 11:13 p.m. – 11:16 p.m. EST.

Kepler contains a 55-inch (1.4 meters) primary mirror. This light-collector feeds a 37.5-inch (0.95m) photometer, a high-precision device that measures light intensity. Scientists have attached to it a 95-megapixel detector, consisting of 42 charge-coupled devices (CCDs). The craft’s mission is to monitor 100,000 stars between 9th and 16th magnitude. This brightness range contains objects some 15 to 10,000 times fainter than the human eye can detect. Read the full news story.

February 24, 2009
Editor blog: Q&A: Kepler mission – not just for planet research

Because the satellite will be observing stars to look for orbiting planets, stellar astronomers will be able to use the data as well. One such astronomer is professor Steve Kawaler of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. I spoke to Kawaler, who’s a member of the Steering Committee for the Kepler Asteroseismology Research Consortium about the upcoming mission and how it can aid his research. Read the full Q&A

February 20, 2009
News: Kepler Mission to see other Earths
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft moved to its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Thursday and will soon begin a journey to search for worlds that could potentially host life.

Kepler is scheduled to blast into space aboard a Delta II rocket March 5 at 7:48 p.m. Pacific Time (10:48 p.m. Eastern Time). It is the first mission with the ability to find planets like Earth — rocky planets that orbit Sun-like stars in a warm zone where liquid water could be maintained on the surface. Liquid water is believed to be essential for the formation of life. Read the full story.

December 30, 2008
News: NASA’s Kepler spacecraft ready to ship to Florida
Engineers are getting ready to pack NASA’s Kepler spacecraft into a container and ship it off to its launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, where the launch is scheduled for March 5, 2009.

“Kepler is ready to begin its journey to its launch site, and ultimately to space, where it will answer a question that has been pondered by humankind at least as long ago as the ancient Greeks,” said James Fanson, the project manager for the mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Read the full story.