Kepler Mission

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United Federation Starfleet<br\> Submitted News Item

STARDATE 080508<br\>

The name United Federation Starfleet is now truly among the stars <br\> by Lothar Bereznyak on Tue 06th May 08, 6:55am

The name of United Federation Starfleet has been added to the DVD that will be installed onto the side of NASA's Kepler Mission. That means the name UFS will be floating in space in a trailing Earth orbit approximately 1,226,000 miles (1,973,000 km) behind Earth.

NASA's Kepler mission will be searching for "Earth like" planets in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way. Currently researchers have found approximately 150 planets outside our Solar System (commonly referred to as extra-solar planets), but the ones found so far have been Jupiter like gas giants. Now Kepler will be searching for terrestrial planets, which are potentially habitable planets like Earth, only 30 to 600 times less massive than Jupiter. not only will it be looking for these planets in general, it will be focusing on planets that dwell in the habitable region of a Sun, also known as "The Goldilocks Region". Why this strange name? Because it is a region around a sun that is perfect for liquid water. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Kepler will be using a search system called the transit method, also known as the light occultation method. If a planet is properly aligned with its Sun and Kepler, there will be a very small dip in the measured brightness of that Sun. From the Kepler website, "Once detected, the planet's orbital size can be calculated from the period (how long it takes the planet to orbit once around the star) and the mass of the star using Kepler's Third Law of planetary motion. The size of the planet is found from the depth of the transit (how much the brightness of the star drops) and the size of the star. From the orbital size and the temperature of the star, the planet's characteristic temperature can be calculated. From this the question of whether or not the planet is habitable (not necessarily inhabited) can be answered."

If you go to the Kepler website below you will be able to enter your own name to be included on the DVD that will be on Kepler. Deadline for submissions is November 1st, 2008. Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. NASA Ames is the home organization of the science principal investigator and is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. Kepler mission development is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo., is responsible for developing the Kepler flight system.

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