Boulder's Connection to the Amazing Kepler Space Telescope

October 2010

As Wired points out, the Kepler Space Telescope isn't just on the hunt for planets out there in the vastness of the universe. It also is able to hear vibrations—a "stellar symphony" that gives an incredibly accurate view of the stars that harbor planets. Bigger stars vibrate at lower frequencies like cellos and smaller ones like violins, allowing astronomers to measure the sizes of the stars and to calculate their ages.

Kepler, built by Ball Aerospace in Boulder and commanded by University of Colorado students, launched in 2009. The vibrations are a sort of "seismology," much "like taking an ultrasound image," Travis Metcalfe, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, tells the Daily Camera. Ultimately, the research could help locate planets, and Kepler is focused on 100,000 stars for at least the next two years. So far, a possible 700 planets have been identified beyond our Solar System, but only seven have been confirmed.