Kepler: The Planet Hunter

April 16, 2009 1:07:41 PM PDT
NASA's new planet-hunting telescope has beamed back the first images of a patch of faraway sky in the Milky Way galaxy where it hopes to find Earth-like planets. NASA on Thursday released several images snapped by Kepler earlier this month, including a view of a distant part of our galaxy containing some 14 million stars. Scientists say more than 100,000 of those stars are potential candidates for research.

Kepler was launched in March and will spend 3½ years studying these stars in search of small rocky planets.

The $600 million mission will begin searching after engineers tune up Kepler's science instruments in the next few weeks.

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