Earth-Like Planet Seeker Kepler Sends Back First Pictures

Posted Apr 19, 2009 by Christopher Szabo
Star Trek’s “M Class,” or earth-like planet, may no longer be science fiction. A NASA mission is actively “hunting” earth-like planets within our own galaxy.
Cluster of Stars in Kepler s View
Cluster of Stars in Kepler's View
Photo by NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
Hungarian news website reports the first pictures from the Kepler space telescope have been received by NASA. The pictures are of the Cygnus-Lyra region of our Milky Way galaxy.
The website quotes NASA saying the spacecraft has onboard a highly advanced telescope and computers and was launched into space on March 6. The ultra precise telescope is tasked with finding earth-like planets and arrived at its orbit on March 7. One of the first images shows 4,5 million stars, more than 100,000 of which are seen as potential earth-like planets.
The craft is still being calibrated and will spend the next three and a half years sifting through 100,000 star systems similar to our sun for signs of Earth-like planets.
Kepler is the first mission specifically designed to seek small, rocky habitable planets like ours orbiting a star in the habitable zone of its solar system.