Kepler First Light! April 16, 2009Posted by CosmicThespian in News, Space Missions.
Last week, the Kepler space telescope released its dust cover. Today, a NASA press release announces that Kepler has taken its first images of the star field within which it will search for transiting exoplanets!
The image below illustrates where in the sky Kepler will spend the next three and a half years looking for these distant worlds.
The patch of sky straddles the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra, constellations which are visible high overhead in late summer evenings from the Northern Hemisphere. This patch of sky covers about 100 square degrees, which is about the equivalent of looking at your outstretched hand held at arms length. The images released to the public by the Kepler team consist of two images which cover this entire region plus three more images which “zoom in” on areas within this field of view.
The above image subtends a tiny portion of Kepler’s field of view – only one-thousandth the size of the total search area. Hundreds of stars are in this image, each a possible host to distant solar systems and planets like our own. If they’re out there, Kepler will find them. The work of the Kepler science team over the next few weeks will focus on calibrating the instruments. They will start by looking for transiting planets which are already known to exist in order to measure the sensitivity and accuracy of the telescope.
Check out the other released images. Kepler’s great planet hunt is about to begin!