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Whitney Clavin 818-354-4673
Michael Mewhinney 650-604-3937
News release: 2009-065 April 7, 2009
Dust Cover Jettisoned From NASA's Kepler Telescope
Engineers have successfully ejected the dust cover from NASA's Kepler telescope, a spaceborne mission soon to begin searching for worlds like Earth.
"The cover released and flew away exactly as we designed it to do," said Kepler Project Manager James Fanson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "This is a critical step toward answering a question that has come down to us across 100 generations of human history -- are there other planets like Earth, or are we alone in the galaxy?"
Kepler, which launched on March 6 from
The telescope's oval-shaped dust cover, measuring 1.7 meters by 1.3 meters (67 inches by 52 inches), protected the photometer from contamination before and after launch. The dust cover also blocked stray light from entering the telescope during launch -- light that could have damaged its sensitive detectors. In addition, the cover was important for calibrating the photometer. Images taken in the dark helped characterize noise coming from the instrument's electronics, and this noise will later be removed from the actual science data.
"Now the photometer can see the stars and will soon start the task of detecting the planets," said Kepler's Science Principal Investigator William Borucki at NASA's
At 7:13 p.m. PDT on April 7, engineers at Kepler's mission operations center at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics,
With the cover off, starlight is entering the photometer and being imaged onto its focal plane. Engineers will continue calibrating the instrument using images of stars for another several weeks, after which science observations will begin.
Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. NASA's Ames Research Center Ames is the home organization of the science principal investigator, and is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
For more information about the Kepler mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/kepler .