Kepler Mission: Searching for Earth-like Planets

THIS TOPIC is fascinating, but today it’s only marginally related to this blog’s focus on the evolution-creationism controversy. The results of this research will have a big impact on the future ravings of creationists, so this is well worth our attention now.

NASA gives us an Overview of the Kepler Mission, which informs us:

The Kepler Mission, NASA Discovery mission #10, 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 how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy have such planets.

[…]

The scientific objective of the Kepler Mission is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems. This is achieved by surveying a large sample of stars to:

1. Determine the percentage of terrestrial and larger planets there are in or near the habitable zone of a wide variety of stars;
2. Determine the distribution of sizes and shapes of the orbits of these planets;
3. Estimate how many planets there are in multiple-star systems;
4. Determine the variety of orbit sizes and planet reflectivities, sizes, masses and densities of short-period giant planets;
5. Identify additional members of each discovered planetary system using other techniques; and
6. Determine the properties of those stars that harbor planetary systems.

At that other page they linked, NASA Discovery mission #10, we are told:

Planned for launch in April of 2009, Kepler will monitor 100,000 stars similar to our sun for four years. The results will be extremely important either way. If Kepler detects many habitable, Earth-size planets, it could mean the universe is full of life. Kepler would then be a stepping stone to the next extensive search for habitable planets and life, the Terrestrial Planet Finder. If nothing is found, it may mean we’re alone in the galaxy.

Now that we’ve captured your interest — we have, haven’t we? — you’ll also want this link: LAUNCH INFORMATION. Launch is currently scheduled “No earlier than 2009 March 6 at 10:48 pm EST.”

What will the creationists conclude from all this? That’s difficult to say. The way they structure their arguments, they’re going to be winners either way, and they’ll be able to crow: “We told you so!”

One variant of intelligent design holds that if other earth-like planets are found, their “theory” will be supported — because the universe is “designed” for life. But a contrasting variant holds that the uniqueness of life on earth supports their “theory” that we are specially designed. They’ve got all the bases covered. As we’ve said before, a “theory” that is consistent with any evidence that may ever show up is no theory at all.

Finally, and perhaps the most interesting reading on the Kepler Project you’ll find today, there’s this from the BBC: Is there anybody out there? The article gives you statements from four people on the meaning of the project. The four are:

Robert J Sawyer, Science fiction writer
Dr Michael Perryman, European Space Agency
Dr Steven J Dick, Nasa historian
Brother Guy Consolmagno, Vatican observatory

So click on over there and read what they have to say. This is good stuff!

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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