Earth a rare place in our galaxy, or are Earth-like planets as common as stars?
Scientists do not yet have the data to answer this question, but should get it
through NASA's upcoming Kepler Mission. Personally, I find the Kepler Mission
to be inspiring. With this space mission, we're taking a big step on the quest
to understand our place in the universe.
about four centuries since Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo began to displace the
Earth from the center of the universe. Less than one hundred years ago, we
discovered that the sun was not near the center either, and that theMilky Way galaxy was just one of billions of galaxiesand that the universe has no center. We've come a
long way on our quest, and now the Kepler Mission will search for hard evidence
of other Earths. We don't know whether to expect that Earth is rare or common.
What do you
think about the search for extrasolar planets? NASA's
Kepler Mission team would like to know, and so would the Smithsonian Air
and Space Museum. On the Kepler Mission "Names in Space" web page, you are
invited to submit a short statement (up to 500 words) about the Kepler Mission
and its search for other Earths. We'd like to hear your opinion about the
significance of this project and its search. You are also invited to submit
your name, city, state and country. Once registered, you will be able to
download a Kepler Mission certificate of participation from the website.
(No SPAM: Email addresses are NOT collected.)
and statements of all participants will be burned onto a DVD, and launched into
space on board the Kepler spacecraft next spring. The information will
also be provided to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum as a historical
document of public opinion about the mission and space exploration.
deadline to get on board: November 1, 2008.
What do we
know today? Astronomers have discovered more than 300 planets orbiting nearby
stars, some in multiple planet systems. The number rises each week, and you can
install a handy widget on your desktop to keep you informed about the latest extrasolar planet count,
courtesy of JPL's PlanetQuest program. So far, giant planets dominate the list
of discoveries because they can be found using ground-based telescopes. Small,
Earth-sized planets are lost in the noise of the observational data. To be
sure, there have been recent announcements of "super-Earths"
in short-period orbits, hot planets of several Earth-masses. No comfy
Earth-like worlds have yet been identified.
Kepler Mission has the sensitivity and precision to discoversmall planets, and determine whether they are in the
habitable zone. The results will help answer the question: "Are Earth-like
planets rare, or common?"
great question. For me it's a wonderful adventure to be a part of this mission.
What about you? What's your opinion? If you are an educator, what do your
students think about the search for other Earths? Join us, and send your name and opinion into space.
like more information about the Kepler Mission before tapping your keyboard to
convey your thoughts, please visit: http://Kepler.NASA.gov.