The Kepler Mission aims to find planets that have the characteristics necessary to harbor life.
The Kepler Mission officially began in May 2014 and is an exploration mission of the universe made by NASA (US Space Agency), which launched the Kepler probe into space in order to observe planets orbiting very bright stars . The probe should “follow the trail” of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun so that our planet does not hide possible bodies to be observed. The mission is expected to last four years.
This mission is called Kepler in honor of the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who, in the 17th century, made enormous contributions to science from his proposals known as Kepler’s laws.
→ Kepler Mission Objectives
According to NASA, the mission has the following objectives:
- Determine the abundance of planets with Earth-like characteristics, which are larger or smaller than our planet and which are at the exact distance from a star, so that they can be considered habitable;
- Determine the size and shape of the orbits of these planets;
- Estimate how many planets there are in multiple star systems;
- Determine the basic characteristics of the planets, such as mass, density, size, temperature, etc.;
- Identify other members present in solar systems;
- Determine the characteristics of stars that harbor planetary systems.
→ How are planets detected by the Kepler probe?
Planets are detected from the phenomenon known as planetary transit . This phenomenon occurs when, from Earth’s perspective, a planet passes in front of the star it orbits, causing a small decrease in luminosity that is capable of sensitizing the photometer (a device that measures the intensity of light) present on the Kepler probe.
→ Characteristics of the Kepler probe
The Kepler probe was launched into space by means of the Delta II rocket. It houses a photometer with an aperture of approximately 95 cm, it has mirrors reflecting 85% of the incident light, a detector of approximately 2200 x 1024 pixels and a mass of 1 ton.
→ Results of the Kepler mission
In 2016, NASA reported that, from observations made by the Kepler spacecraft, 4,302 possible planets had been identified. Of these, there are 1284 that have a chance of actually being planets and that are in the focus of the mission. Of those 1284, approximately 550 are rocky like Earth and nine are in considerable habitable zones, given the distance that their suns orbit.
In 2014, the discovery of planet HIP 116454b was announced. This planet has a diameter 2.5 times that of Earth, orbits a star smaller and cooler than our Sun, and takes nine days to complete a complete revolution. The distance to Earth is 180 light years .
In 2015, the planet Kepler-452b was discovered. This star has a mass about 60% greater than that of Earth, is 1400 light-years from our planet and has a position in relation to its star that favors the existence of liquid water.
The Kepler mission will certainly bring numerous benefits to science, providing greater understanding of the infinite celestial bodies that are scattered throughout the universe.