NASA's Kepler telescope sees Earth as a celestial lightsaber

Earth cosplays as a Star Wars lightsaber in a radiant portrait from NASA's Kepler space telescope.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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Earth looks like a glowing Star Wars lightsaber in this Kepler Space Telescope image.


If you saw this NASA image out of context, what would you think it was? 

A still from a J.J. Abrams movie? The opening credits for a Star Trek show? Darth Maul's Star Wars lightsaber powering up? 

Actually, it's our home planet Earth like you've never seen it before.

The image comes from NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope and it's definitely different from the blue marble-style space portraits we're used to seeing. 

Kepler snapped the eye-searing look on Dec. 10, 2017 while NASA was adjusting the telescope's field of view. 

"Earth's reflection as it slipped past was so extraordinarily bright that it created a saber-like saturation bleed across the instrument's sensors, obscuring the neighboring moon," said NASA in a release on Wednesday.

It also helped that Kepler was 94 million miles (151 million kilometers) away from Earth at the time. NASA says the flashlight-like image highlights the sensitivity of Kepler's photometer, which looks for changes in brightness as far-off planets cross in front of stars.

Kepler launched in 2009 and has been delivering news of distant planets ever since. The telescope has spotted thousands of candidate exoplanets and is on a mission to find potentially Earth-like planets located in the habitable zones around their stars.

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