March 6 2009: Kepler mission is now up!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The area in the sky where Kepler will be making its observations, about 100,000 stars or so.

I've been watching the progress over the past hour or so since launch, as it took a fair amount of time to get to the point where we had spacecraft separation, which is where you can be pretty sure that everything has been successful. You can see what's going on at NASA TV here, or see the progress as it happened at here.

I wasn't that worried about the launch in spite of NASA's failure to launch the carbon observatory satellite near the end of February...because it uses a completely different rocket, so apples and oranges. The Delta II is about as reliable as a rocket can get.

With the success of this launch, the end of our cosmic isolation is just a matter of time. We have observatories on the ground, Corot in space, and now Kepler on the job as well. We're already pretty close to being able to discover planets near the size of our own Earth:

In February 2009, COROT-Exo-7b was announced. It is the smallest exoplanet to have its diameter confirmed at 1.7 Earth's diameter.
This change in the way we see the universe will be similar to the way things were before vs. after the internet. Just imagine how different the universe will feel when we no longer simply have gas giants and tiny atmosphereless bodies, but also planets that perhaps look something like this:

Here's the part of confirming the spacecraft separation:
0454 GMT (11:54 p.m. EST Fri.)

SPACECRAFT SEPARATION! The Kepler spacecraft is on its way to search for Earth-like planets in the galaxy. Release from the Delta 2 rocket's third stage is confirmed, finishing tonight's launch sequence.


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