X

Images: Kepler catches first planet-hunting territory sightings

The mission to find Earth-like planets is off and running, and NASA has made the first set of images of the field of sky available to the public.

New_CNET_profile_picture.jpg
New_CNET_profile_picture.jpg
Daniel Terdiman
329982main_fullFFINoCalloutsHot300-516.jpg
1 of 5 NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

Kepler's 'star-rich sky'

On Thursday, NASA released an initial set of images from the Kepler mission, showing the "star-rich sky" where the telescope will soon begin searching for Earth-like planets.

The so-called "first light" images reveal Kepler's intended patch of sky, a huge field of stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way galaxy. Among other things, the images show the millions of stars in the full field of view of the Kepler mission, as well as others that zoom in on specific areas of the larger region.

This image shows the Kepler telescope's entire field of view in the Cygnus and Lyra constellations, a full 100 square degrees of sky, or, NASA says, the equivalent of "two side-by-side dips of the Big Dipper."

In this image, there are more than 4.5 million stars, of which more than 100,000 have been selected by NASA as being worth investigation by Kepler. The image is a 60-second exposure, taken on April 8, 2009. It is brighter in the lower right of the image since it's closer to the plane of the Milky Way, and is "jam-packed with stars." As well, it is color-coded: the whiter the star, the brighter it is, while the redder it appears, the fainter it is.








329144main_fullFFIHot300-516.jpg
2 of 5 NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

Kepler view of NGC 6791 and TrES-2

This image also shows the Kepler telescope's full range of view. In the image, NGC 6791, a cluster of stars, as well as TrES-2, a star with a known planet, are highlighted. Over 8 billion years old, the cluster is located 13,000 light-years from Earth.
329150main_NGC6791Hot300-516.jpg
3 of 5 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Zoomed image of NGC 6791

This is a zoomed image of, among other things, NGC 6791, the cluster of stars that is 8 billion years old and 13,000 light-years from Earth. This type of cluster is known as an "open cluster," since its stars are loosely bound and over the millennia have begun to spread apart from each other.

This image depicts an area that is just 0.2 percent of Kepler's full field of view.




329153main_TrES2Hot300-516.jpg
4 of 5 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Zoomed image of TrES-2

Here, we see, among other things, a zoomed-in image of TrES-2, a star with a "hot Jupiter" type of planet that orbits it every 2.5 days. The image itself is just a small area of Kepler's full field of view, and it is a 60-second exposure taken on April 8, 2009, just one day after the Kepler spacecraft's dust cover was jettisoned.
330016main_Kepler_FOV_300-516-sw.jpg
5 of 5 Software Bisque

Massive patch of sky

This is a star chart that depicts the massive patch of sky that the Kepler mission will investigate during its 3.5-year duration.

The focal plane of the Kepler mission, the area where starlight is focused, is seen on the chart as 42 horizontal and verticle rectangles, which represent the 42 charge-coupled devices, or CCDs, of the 95-megapixel camera used by Kepler. "Scientists selected the orientation of the focal plane's field of view to avoid the region's brightest stars," according to NASA, "which are shown as the largest black dots. Some of these bright stars can be seen falling in between the CCD modules, in areas that are not imaged. This was done so that the brightest stars will not saturate large portions of the detectors."




More Galleries

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More
John Cena attends Warner Bros. premiere of The Suicide Squad, in costume as Peacemaker.

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More

95 Photos
US Air Force at 75: These Are the Aircraft It's Flown
110403-f-ka253-155

US Air Force at 75: These Are the Aircraft It's Flown

45 Photos
The Best Games on Nintendo Switch in 2022
zelda-cnet-2.jpg

The Best Games on Nintendo Switch in 2022

36 Photos
Toyota C-HR Prologue Sharpens Up the Small SUV
Toyota C-HR Prologue

Toyota C-HR Prologue Sharpens Up the Small SUV

11 Photos
The 51 Best VR Games
astro-bot-rescue-mission-screen-02-ps4-us-18may18

The 51 Best VR Games

53 Photos
Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More
thor4

Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

85 Photos
2024 Acura Integra Type S Looks Sharp in Camouflage
2024 Acura Integra Type S

2024 Acura Integra Type S Looks Sharp in Camouflage

9 Photos