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Kepler passes scientific tests
Posted: Fri, Aug 7, 2009, 8:04 AM ET (1204 GMT)
Kepler spacecraft illustration (NASA/Ames) Observations of a star known to have an extrasolar planet have confirmed that a new NASA spacecraft should be able to detect Earth-sized worlds around other stars, scientists said Thursday. NASA used the Kepler spacecraft, launched earlier this year, to observe a star 1,000 light-years away where previous observations had detected a planet closely orbiting it. Kepler was able to detect the changes in brightness as the star transited across the star's disk, as well as a much smaller change when the planet passed behind the star. The high quality of the Kepler data also allowed scientists to infer additional data about the planet, including a temperature on its day side of 2,375 degrees Celsius. Kepler, launched in March, will spend the next three and a half years observing one region of the sky, looking for similar transits caused by other exoplanets, including worlds the size of the Earth.
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