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In the News: Kepler’s Telescope

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Staff Writer

NASA’s Kepler mission has recently made some astounding discoveries.  Last Wednesday, NASA announced the discovery of Earth-sized planet candidates located within what is referred to as the “habitable zone,” a region where liquid water could potentially exist on a planet’s surface. 

Launched in 2009, the space telescope called Kepler has been orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars conducting surveys of the globe and searching for planets similar to that of our own.  The most recent discoveries have been made through the studying of observations made by the satellite between May 2009 and September 2009.  In just these five months alone Kepler observed over 150,000 stars and discovered fifty-four new planet candidates in the habitable zone.  Of these fifty-four possible planets, five are near Earth-sized, while the other forty-nine range from twice the size of Earth to larger than Jupiter.

With planet candidates so similar to our own in a region where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface, NASA now has greater hope that the discovery of life in other worlds might not be so far away.  The fact that all of these discoveries have been made within such a small fraction of the sky leads NASA workers to believe that there are countless more planets orbiting sun-like stars to discover in our galaxy.  With the success that Kepler has had, such discoveries in other regions of the sky are made more possible in the future. 

Kepler is providing more information than ever before.  It is observing thousands of stars that have never been analyzed as well as hundreds of celestial bodies that are waiting to be confirmed as planets.  The data Kepler has collected will continue to be analyzed in the following months, where more astonishing discoveries might be made.

“I think it’s awesome and says a lot that we might be one step closer to finding life on other planets.  Hopefully these recent discoveries will open the door for even more to be made over the next few years,” Amy Queen ’14 said.