Observatory to Unveil Search for Other Earths, Life

Kepler observatory to release early findings this week
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2011 7:09 PM CST
Observatory to Unveil Search for Other Earths, Life
This image taken by the Kepler telescope and released by NASA April 16, 2009, shows an expansive, 100-square-degree patch of sky in our Milky Way galaxy where it hopes to find Earth-like planets.   (AP Photo/NASA/JPL CALTECH)

There's a roving eye watching deep space for signs that the truth—or at least other Earth-like planets or even life—is out there, and we're going to get a glimpse this week. The $600 million Kepler observatory is tracking a small piece of sky filled with some 4.5 million stars, and the potential "Goldilocks" planets lurking between them, the New York Times reports. “We will find Earth-size planets in habitable zones,” says one scientist.

On Wednesday, scientists will unveil a list of 400 stars that are the most likely to support planets; in the next few years, researchers expect to find “Earths” by detecting small changes in stars’ light emission as planets orbit them. But there could be “hundreds of planet candidates that may never be fully vetted as planets,” notes one scientist. “We just have to live with statistics.” And if we strike out, and don't find other life, “maybe we’re going to go conquer the whole galaxy,” says the lead scientist. “Nobody’s out there to stop us.”
(More Kepler spacecraft stories.)

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