March 03, 2009
To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations

It's not quite boldly going, but it's still pretty darned cool.

The universe may be filled with Earth-like planets -- worlds where extraterrestrials might flourish.

But these planets were once considered too small to spot, even with the latest in space technology.

Now, many astronomers believe NASA's $600 million Kepler telescope, which is scheduled to shoot into space this week, will help to clear up the mystery.

Named for Johannes Kepler, a 17th-century German astronomer who studied planetary motion, the telescope is designed to search 100,000 stars in the Milky Way for Earth-sized rocky planets where water could flow and form streams, lakes and oceans.

Some astronomers believe the spacecraft could eventually find about 50 Earth-like planets.

"If we find that many, it will certainly mean life may well be common throughout our galaxy," said William Borucki of NASA's Ames Research Center, the astronomer who leads the Kepler science team.

"On the other hand, if we don't find any, that is still a profound discovery," he said. "It will mean that Earth must be very rare. We may be the only life in our universe.

"It will mean there will be no Star Trek."

Dude. There will always be Star Trek. It just may be a little different. Regardless, I look forward to hearing of Kepler's discoveries.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 03, 2009 to Technology, science, and math

Billions and billions of stars. The inconceivable enormousness of the universe. How can we take what we do during the work day seriously.

Posted by: cb on March 3, 2009 12:17 PM
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