Kepler Spacecraft

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The Kepler Spacecraft

The never-ending pursuit of knowledge about our universe has allowed us to attempt to explore the configuration and variety of different planetary systems. This pursuit of knowledge has lead NASA to launch the Kepler Mission. This mission was specifically aimed to yield information on a certain portion of our galaxy (The Milky Way), which would allowed us to discover numerous Earth-like planets the possibly could be habitable. The Kepler spacecraft provides us with crucial information based on what is called the “Transit Method of Detecting Extrasolar Planets” (http://kepler.nasa.gov/Mission/). This method along with the main instrument on Kepler, which is a photometer, provides us with a means of detecting Earth-like planets in far away areas of our galaxy. The Kepler Spacecraft utilizes the unique approach of the “Transit Method of Detecting Extrasolar Planets”. This method is actually quite an interesting idea and utilizes some interesting concepts. Firstly, the Kepler Spacecraft was designed with the purpose of detecting planets, however, it does this when the planets themselves pass in front of their stars and this event is called a “transit”. This passing over or covering causes a dip in the concentration of the stars’ light intensity; this is what the Kepler Spacecraft detects. Also, all of the “transits” that occur by the same planet must provide a highly repeatable signal, meaning this “transit” must be recurring to allow for the Kepler Spacecraft to detect it. How though is Kepler able to detect these changes of light intensity? The main aspect Kepler utilizes for this is a photometer. This photometer is able to detect and measure the changes in brightness of stars. The photometer itself has a very intricate structure; it consists of a telescope, a focal plane array and different local detector electronics. To really understand…...

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