Earth-Hunting Space Scope Ready for Action

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 6, 2009 – 5:02 pm -

NASA’s new Kepler space telescope has detected the atmosphere of a known giant gas planet, demonstrating the telescope’s extraordinary scientific capabilities….these new data indicate the mission is indeed capable of finding Earth-like planets, if they exist….”When the light curves from tens of thousands of stars were shown to the Kepler science team, everyone was awed; no one had ever seen such exquisitely detailed measurements of the light variations of so many different types of stars,” said William Borucki, the principal science investigator….

The observations were collected from a planet called HAT-P-7, known to transit a star located about 1,000 light years from Earth. The planet orbits the star in just 2.2 days and is 26 times closer than Earth is to the sun. …It is so close to its star, the planet is as hot as the glowing red heating element on a stove.

…”This early result shows the Kepler detection system is performing right on the mark,” said David Koch, deputy principal investigator of NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. “It bodes well for Kepler’s prospects to be able to detect Earth-size planets.”

– adapted from material taken from a NASA news announcement.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Backyard Astro Hunt: Try your hand at hunting down where in the sky this alien world is located. No chance in seeing the planet but its neat to be able to point out where it is in the sky. The parent star HAT-P 7 goes by another more widely used but even less romantic designation TYC 3547-1402-1. The star’s coordinates are RA: 19h 28m 59s ; Dec: +47 58m 10s which lies in the constellation Cygnus, the swan, otherwise known as the northern Cross. Those of you with planetarium softwares might be able to find it using this other name and position. Cygnus dominates the southern overhead skies at night during the entire summer. HAT-P 7 is located just underneath the right arm of the cross.

click to enlarge

While we can only imagine what this 1000 light year distant world looks like, I think its kind of cool to find the general area in the night sky with just the naked-eye where these kind of discoveries are being made.

The parent star is classified as a yellow dwarf quite similar to our own Sun – hence all the interest in observing it for planets. It has a magnitude 10.4 which makes it possible to spot the general area where it is located if not the diminutive star itself in small telescopes.

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Posted in Constellations, Satellites, Space Exploration, Stargazing, stars | 3 Comments »

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