NASA eClips: Kepler - The search for Earth-like Worlds

 Join NASA on the Kepler Mission as this traveling telescope images the light from faraway stars to locate Earth-sized and smaller planets. Using the transit method, the Kepler telescope measures the brightness of a star and uses the data to determine the sizes of planets orbiting the star, and their distance from the star. The Kepler Mission is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets. Are there planets orbiting other stars with characteristics similar to Earth? In recent years, scientists have discovered nearly 400 stars with orbiting giant planets. The challenge is to find terrestrial planets, those one-half to twice the size of the Earth, and especially those in the habitable zone of their stars where liquid water and possibly life might exist. We might soon find answers with Kepler – the first mission capable of detecting Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone. Recent Kepler surveys have identified over 1200 new 'exoplanets' and nearly 60 that are Earth-like in size and temperature.

Related Mathematics Problems

These problems provide a mathematical introduction to some of the issues related to Keplers mission

Problem 402: Kepler- Earth-like planets by the score! II Students use recent Kepler satellite data summarized in tabular form to estimate the number of planets in the Milky Way galaxy that are about the same size as our Earth, and located in their Habitable Zones were liquid water may exist. [Grade: 6-8 | Topics: Percentage; re-scaling sample sizes] (PDF)

Problem 401: Kepler - Earth-like planets by the score! I Students use recent Kepler satellite data to estimate the number of Earth-like planets in the Milky Way galaxy. [Grade: 6-8 | Topics: Percentage; histograms; Re-scaling sample sizes] (PDF)

Additional problems are available if you are a registered SpaceMath@NASA Educator