in search of earth 2 .0
The Kepler Space Telescope is performing an interstellar house hunt, looking for Earth-sized planets in the “habitable zone”, the sweet spot between where the heat from a star is enough to melt ice but not so hot that it boils liquid.
The grand design uses a 1.4-metre mirror telescope attached to a one-tonne spacecraft. Information on all new potential habitable planets is captured using a 95-megapixel camera, cooled by heat pipes connected to an external radiator, and sent back to NASA. The camera collects far more data than it can send back, too, so NASA scientists have to pre-select the relevant pixels.
At the time of writing, Kepler’s search has identified 43 exoplanets that the human race could call home, the closest a mere 17 light years away.