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Over 1,200 Possible Planets Found…Taxpayers Money At Work

February 2, 2011

Treasure trove in space.  Might I add this is the taxpayer’s money at work… that would be threatened if conservatives have their way and slash federal spending.

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope detected 1,235 possible extra-solar planets during its first four months of operation, astronomers announced Wednesday, including 68 approximately Earth-size worlds. Five of those are orbiting in the parent star’s habitable “Goldilocks” zone where liquid water could exist in environments favorable for life.

The planetary “candidates” must be confirmed by additional observations and analysis and it will take another two years to collect enough data to determine how common Earth-like worlds might be. But based on the initial results, “Kepler’s blown the lid off everything we know about extra-solar planets,” said Debra Fischer, an astronomer at Yale University.

Launched from Cape Canaveral on March 6, 2009, Kepler’s 95-megapixel camera is aimed at a patch of sky in the constellation Cygnus that’s the size of an out-stretched hand, a 10-degree-wide target zone that contains more than 4.5 million detectable stars.

Of that total, some 300,000 are believed to be the right age, have the right composition and the proper brightness to host Earth-like planets. More than 156,000 of those, ranging from 600 to 3,000 light years away, will be actively monitored by Kepler over the life of the mission.

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