An artist's illustration of an Earth-like planet. The search for planets that are similar to Earth is one of NASA's main goals. Many planets have already been discovered orbiting other stars, but so far only larger planets (the size of Jupiter or larger) have been found. New missions are being planned by NASA which will be able to detect smaller Earth-sized planets. Some of these missions will also try to detect signs of life on these planets by studying emissions in their atmospheres.


Kepler Spacecraft

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has begun its search for other Earth-like worlds. The mission, which launched from Cape Canaveral on March 6 2009, will spend the next three-and-a-half years staring at more than 100,000 stars for telltale signs of planets. Kepler has the unique ability to find planets as small as Earth that orbit sun-like stars at distances where temperatures are right for possible lakes and oceans.

For more information:

New space telescope to search for earth-sized planets
Planet-Hunting Spacecraft Beams Home First Images
Telescope can find "oodles" of Earths: NASA
Kepler spacecraft sees its first exoplanets
Kepler Detects an Exoplanet Atmosphere
Spacecraft blasts off in search of 'Earths'
Nasa launches search for second Earth
The Inspiring Boom in "Super-Earths"
Let the Planet Hunt Begin
Kepler Spacecraft
Kepler works!

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