This image zooms into a small portion of Kepler's full field of view -- an expansive, 100-square-degree patch of sky in our Milky Way galaxy. Credit: NASA/JPL -Caltech

Kepler’s “First Light” Images

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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W00t! Kepler has seen first light! The spacecraft has taken its first images of the star-rich sky where it will soon begin hunting for planets like Earth. These first images show the mission’s target patch of sky, a vast starry field in the Cygnus-Lyra region of our Milky Way galaxy. One image shows millions of stars in Kepler’s full field of view, while two others zoom in on portions of the larger region. “Kepler’s first glimpse of the sky is awe-inspiring,” said Lia LaPiana, Kepler’s program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “To be able to see millions of stars in a single snapshot is simply breathtaking.”

The image above zooms into a small portion — just 0.2 percent –of Kepler’s full field of view, and shows an an expansive, 100-square-degree patch of sky in our Milky Way galaxy, and a cluster of stars located about 13,000 light-years from Earth, called NGC 6791, can be seen in the upper right corner. These images were taken on April 8, 2009, one day after Kepler’s dust cover was jettisoned. See more below.

Kepler main field of view.  Credit: NASA/JPL - Caltech

Kepler main field of view. Credit: NASA/JPL - Caltech




This image shows Kepler’s entire field of view — a 100-square-degree portion of the sky, equivalent to two side-by-side dips of the Big Dipper. The regions contain an estimated 14 million stars, more than 100,000 of which were selected as ideal candidates for planet hunting. “It’s thrilling to see this treasure trove of stars,” said William Borucki, science principal investigator for Kepler at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. “We expect to find hundreds of planets circling those stars, and for the first time, we can look for Earth-size planets in the habitable zones around other stars like the sun.”

Kepler will spend the next three-and-a-half years searching more than 100,000 pre-selected stars for signs of planets. It is expected to find a variety of worlds, from large, gaseous ones, to rocky ones as small as Earth. The mission is the first with the ability to find planets like ours — small, rocky planets orbiting sun-like stars in the habitable zone, where temperatures are right for possible lakes and oceans of water.
Kepler's view of a star with a known "Hot Jupiter."  Credit: NASA/JPL


This image zooms in on a region containing a star, called Tres-2, with a known Jupiter-like planet orbiting every 2.5 days.

To find the planets, Kepler will stare at one large expanse of sky for the duration of its lifetime, looking for periodic dips in starlight that occur as planets circle in front of their stars and partially block the light. Its 95-megapixel camera, the largest ever launched into space, can detect tiny changes in a star’s brightness of only 20 parts per million. Images from the camera are intentionally blurred to minimize the number of bright stars that saturate the detectors. While some of the slightly saturated stars are candidates for planet searches, heavily saturated stars are not.

“Everything about Kepler has been optimized to find Earth-size planets,” said James Fanson, Kepler’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Our images are road maps that will allow us, in a few years, to point to a star and say a world like ours is there.”

Scientists and engineers will spend the next few weeks calibrating Kepler’s science instrument, the photometer, and adjusting the telescope’s alignment to achieve the best focus. Once these steps are complete, the planet hunt will begin.

“We’ve spent years designing this mission, so actually being able to see through its eyes is tremendously exciting,” said Eric Bachtell, the lead Kepler systems engineer at Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp. in Boulder, Colo. Bachtell has been working on the design, development and testing of Kepler for nine years.

Source: NASA


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Total Science
Member
April 16, 2009 11:49 AM
In the spirit of Dr. Flimmer, I would like to note that Kepler did not believe in gravitation. Kepler correctly believed that orbital intertia is electromagnetic in origin. “The example of the magnet I have hit upon is a very pretty one, and entirely suited to the subject; indeed, it is little short of being the very truth.” — Johannes Kepler, astronomer/mathematician, 1609 “It is therefore plausible, since the Earth moves the moon through its species and magnetic body, while the sun moves the planets similarly through an emitted species, that the sun is likewise a magnetic body.” — Johannes Kepler, astronomer/mathematician, 1609 “But come: let us follow more closely the tracks of this similarity of the planetary… Read more »
Total Science
Member
April 16, 2009 11:50 AM

Inertia rather…razz

BIGGUYlilcoat
Guest
BIGGUYlilcoat
April 16, 2009 12:00 PM

how is kepler different from other telescopes?
I thought it used the same techniques as any other just alot better but it says here that they’ll be able to detect what zone there in, in comparison to there own sun. Now that has to be some thing else. You cant do that with the wobble method . Could you?

Brian Ventrudo
Member
April 16, 2009 12:17 PM
As I understand it, Kepler isn’t using the “wobble method”. It’s looking for the change in brightness caused by planets passing in front of stars. And since it’s looking for changes over many months, it can detect planets that are farther away from the star. (The farther away the planet, the longer the orbital period). Presumably, a planet with an orbital period of many months or a few years might be in the “habitable zone” of a star like our sun. Most planets detected so far by earth-based telescopes are quite close to the star, so they have orbital periods of days or weeks, not months or years. These planets are too hot for life (as we know… Read more »
jeri
Guest
jeri
April 16, 2009 12:44 PM

Yes! It is breathtaking indeed. Magnificent!

Jeri
Guest
Jeri
April 16, 2009 12:45 PM

Breathtaking! Magnificent! Awesome!

zibit
Guest
zibit
April 16, 2009 1:02 PM

Let the SCIENCE begin!

Only a couple years before the first earth-like planet will be discovered. I must admit I’m giddy at the thought of it.

Gary
Guest
Gary
April 16, 2009 2:09 PM

Nice one, am expecting great things from this telescope.

Olaf
Member
Olaf
April 16, 2009 4:57 PM

I hope there is a very fast orbitting planet around a small sun that does not take years to confirm. :-p

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
April 16, 2009 6:26 PM

Beautiful. I can just imagine those seemingly tiny stars in its field of view, blinking away ever so softly as they have done for millions of years, with Kepler carefully collecting the bounty of data. Planets await discovery! And of course the Cephieds, pulsing away and giving up their secrets almost begging to be understood.

The data from this mission will be exciting indeed.

imode
Member
imode
April 16, 2009 8:08 PM

@OilIsMastery strikes again… I love your posts… What does your post have to do with the Kepler observatory? And exactly how is inertia related to an electromagnetic field??? So you are implying General Relativity is incorrect?

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
April 16, 2009 9:43 PM
imode Says: April 16th, 2009 at 8:08 pm Don’t worry too much imode – Oils posts have little to do with anything most of the time… that GR is incorrect and an EM field can somehow induce inertia in massive objects is among the least whack of Oils’ ideas. He’s invented his own physics, but done away with pesky hindrances like quantitative prediction and striving for agreement with the set of all known observations. This removes the problems and difficulties inherent in having a falsifiable theory and hence it must be correct! All that is required is a little faith, a willingness to suppress doubt and a complete rejection of any work done in science in the last… Read more »
stargeezer
Member
stargeezer
April 16, 2009 9:53 PM

I’ve been staring at the image for some time now. I’m so overawed I can’t express what I feel. I’m beginning to realize that if there is someone else on a planet in orbit around one of those stars who is looking at a similar patch of sky, that they will be looking at their patch of sky which contains millions of stars and one of them is our sun, us. That person is thinking of me, and I’m thinking of that person. To that person I say “Hello”.

T1 Rex
Guest
April 16, 2009 10:00 PM

It will certainly whet the appetite for space exploration as we find our first “Earth”, then dozens, hundreds and thousands more.

Keith A
Guest
Keith A
April 17, 2009 3:50 AM

Astrofiend:

LOGIC? Oils?

At least you didn’t use them IN THEM SAME SENTENCE, LOL! wink

Oliver K. Manuel
Member
April 17, 2009 4:28 AM

This is great news!

I have long complained that NASA needs to focus more time and effort on Earth’s heat source – the Sun – but this is definitely one of the better of the other projects.

The universe is so vast and we know so little!

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
http://myprofile.cos.com/manuelo09

BeckyWS
Member
BeckyWS
April 17, 2009 4:34 AM

Can anyone explain about the ‘intentional blurring’ of the image to prevent saturation? I don’t understand how blurring the image means less light. Also, the individual star that is labelled looks quite saturated. I am a bit confused!

jeffery keown
Guest
jeffery keown
April 17, 2009 4:51 AM

Yes, Oils does not beleive in Gravity. He beleives in EM. EM is everything to him. When I knock a pencil off my desk (which is actually a table right now, as we’re moving our offices from up here at Keystone to downtown at Capital Center… I hear the parking situation is much better nowadays than when I worked downtown in the early 90s) it hits the floor due to EM effects.

Never mind that when we launch a craft into space, we use gravitational equations and hit the target every single time.

Wow.

simon
Member
simon
April 17, 2009 4:55 AM

Its Full of Stars

Jari
Guest
Jari
April 17, 2009 5:28 AM

BeckyWS, About the blurring: It means less light per pixel as instead of a bright point light you see a dimmer disc light as it is dispersed across several pixels.
And about the saturated looking star from the second image: Nasa’s Kepler site says that: “The image has been color-coded so that brighter stars appear white, and fainter stars, red.”

wpDiscuz