Kepler Spacecraft

Kepler Spacecraft

Courtesy of NASA

http://kepler.nasa.gov/



Overview
Kepler is a planet hunter. Its mission is to search for earth-like planets outside our solar system that are capable of supporting life. Using a 95-megapixel camera, it watches for regular patterns of dimming light. There is a lot of excitement as potential planets are watched, data is analyzed, and planets are confirmed. Once every quarter, the spacecraft is rolled to keep its solar panels facing the Sun and twice a month, data is downloaded and analyzed at the NASA Ames Research Center.


Launch
March 7, 2009


Orbit
Earth-trailing heliocentric with a period of 372.5 days


End of Mission
Still operating


Goals
Survey 100,000 stars in our region of the Milky Way Galaxy to detect hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or nearby the stars' habitable zones. A habitable zone is a region near a star where liquid water can exist on a planet's surface. Determine sizes and shapes of the orbits of the planets detected. Determine properties of those stars that harbor planetary systems.


Findings
So far, Kepler has detected more than 1,200 planet candidates and confirmed more than 25 planets.