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Thursday, August 27, 2009

'HELLO FROM EARTH' banner.

GLIESE 581d, Here I Come... At 7:00 PM, California time today (12:00 PM Sydney time on Friday, August 28), a large radio telescope near Canberra, Australia began transmitting into deep space a signal containing 25,880 text messages gathered by COSMOS Magazine (for its Hello From Earth campaign) earlier this month. The signal is headed for a star system known as Gliese 581, where a potential ocean-covered planet (known as Gliese 581d) could possibly be harboring life. The signal will take 20.3 light-years (119 trillion miles, or 192 trillion kilometers) to reach Gliese 581, meaning it should arrive at the star system around December of 2029, give or take a few months. If advanced alien life forms do detect and decipher our signal, we wouldn't get a response from them till as early as 2051.

An artist's concept of the Gliese 581 star system.

The agency responsible for transmitting the signal was NASA...since the radio telescope [known as Deep Space Station 43 (or DSS-43), which is 70 meters—or 230 feet—in diameter] that was used is part of the worldwide Deep Space Network (DSN) that communicates with interplanetary probes such as Cassini, Dawn, Kepler and the New Horizons spacecraft. According to COSMOS Magazine, the messages were encoded into a binary format (by engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California) before being transmitted by the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex at Tidbinbilla, Australia. They were sent at a 7.145 Gigahertz frequency at 18 kilowatts...meaning the signal is technically slightly more powerful than some of today’s best computer servers. However, the size of the 70-meter DSN telescope amplified the signal...making its strength the equivalent of using the transmitting power of 300 billion cell phones combined (or 300 gigawatts). The transmission will fly through the Gliese 581 star system two times over two hours...since the signal was relayed twice from DSS-43.

(I did the math, and if the two signals were sent into space exactly two hours apart from each other, then the first signal should be traveling around 1.3 billion miles—or 2.2 billion kilometers—ahead of the second one!)

The 70-meter radio telescope, known as DSS-43, at NASA's Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex in Tidbinbilla, Australia.

With the technical aspects of this Blog now out of the way, all I can say about this campaign is that it’s pretty friggin’ cool! And very amusing too...but not in a good way. In terms of it being cool, Hello From Earth somewhat made up for me not being able to get my name on the Pluto-bound New Horizons probe 4 years ago. The opportunity this time around is actually a lot better. Even though my name (and the message I typed) is in the form of an encrypted radio signal and not imprinted on an actual object like a microchip or a compact disc, my name will reach interstellar space a whole lot faster (since it’s traveling at the speed of light) than on a robotic spacecraft using conventional rocket fuel; and the signal will last as long as outbound space probes such as New Horizons and the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft possibly will. (Assuming, of course, none of these probes collide with an interstellar asteroid or something.) After the signal reaches Gliese 581d, it will still be strong enough to be detected by intelligent life forms up to 100 light-years from Earth. Despite diminishing in strength as time goes by, the artificial nature of this transmission should be detectable up to 10,000 light-years away, before the signal disappears completely. That’s what I call a long shelf life. However, this doesn’t mean that I still can't wait for the day NASA approves another robotic mission like New Horizons that will fly beyond our solar system.

A screenshot of my message on the 'HELLO FROM EARTH' website.

Now...in terms of Hello From Earth being amusing, but not in a good way, if alien beings EVER DO detect and decipher this signal, and they actually speak um, English, then they will most likely be appalled by our transmission. Browse through all the messages on the Hello From Earth website (click on the first link posted at the start of this journal entry), and count to see how many of them actually have proper grammar and spelling. Not much. Granted, folks from all 195 nations (as well as Antarctica and Vatican City) submitted a message...so I really shouldn’t be expecting someone from Brazil, China or Iran to submit something that would imply they would win an English essay contest or something. But still, it’s just mind-boggling to think that extraterrestrials would get their first perception of Earthlings by reading this garbled nonsense. Oh well. Despite all this, I hope that COSMOS Magazine has another opportunity like Hello From Earth next year. After all, there are still more than 350 ‘exoplanets’ out there for us to send badly-worded greetings to. Live long and prosper.


"My name is Richard Par, and HELLO from planet Earth!!! I hope all is well in your civilization...and I hope you are a much more peaceful species than we are..."
Richard Par

August 17, 2009

An artist's concept of the water(?) world Gliese 581d.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A bird's-eye view of the Phoenix lander on Mars.

PHOENIX Update... The photo above has been saved on my desktop since early June, so I thought I’d finally post it on my Blog. Also, the image below was released on the Phoenix mission’s official website
last month. *Sigh* All that dirt scattered around the Phoenix DVD...

At least the disc wasn’t installed with the readable side facing right-side-up on the deck of the lander. Then that would really suck.

The Phoenix DVD is visible on the deck of the Mars lander.

Images courtesy of NASA / JPL - Caltech / University of Arizona / Texas A&M University

PHOENIX Blog Entries Archive:

May 8, 2007
July 28, 2007
August 3, 2007
August 4, 2007
August 8, 2007
October 25, 2007
April 11, 2008
April 25, 2008
May 1, 2008
May 11, 2008
May 18, 2008
May 24, 2008
May 25, 2008
May 27, 2008
June 18, 2008
August 4, 2008
November 10, 2008
May 25, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Xenon lights illuminate Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, on August 24, 2009 (Pacific Time).
Gary Rothstein / EPA

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... The launch of space shuttle Discovery was scrubbed for the second straight day, but oh well. When was the last time a shuttle launched on time? Um... 2007? Anyways, these three photos were taken during Discovery’s previous liftoff attempt yesterday. Meteorologists at NASA's Kennedy Space Center predicted an 80% chance of acceptable launch weather conditions for last night.

...

Needless to say, those meteorologists need a deduction in pay. That is all.

Xenon lights illuminate Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, on August 24, 2009 (Pacific Time).
Justin Deniere / EPA

Xenon lights illuminate Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, on August 24, 2009 (Pacific Time).
NASA / Ben Cooper

Sunday, August 23, 2009

1st Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) addresses his fellow 'Basterds' in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS... I saw Quentin Tarantino’s latest flick last night, and I must say, it was a pretty good film. As a whole, that is. Before I get to the positive aspects of the movie, here are a few gripes I have about it:

Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) is out to seek revenge in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.

-Inglourious Basterds at times felt like it was a film history course disguised as a World War II flick. The gist of some of the scenes: "Hey guys, I'm letting you know that old movies were once printed on lethal, explosive material that was projected at theaters! Google 'silver nitrate film' to know what I’m talking about! Oh, and look up 'Marlene Dietrich' on Wikipedia while you're at it."

-I obviously understand that Tarantino's signature trademarks in his movies are long scenes with witty dialogue in 'em. However, the long scenes in my opinion were only interesting when they dealt with German SS officer Hans Landa (who was terrifically played by Christoph Waltz. More on him later). The opening scene with him and that French dude at the farm was pretty intense. For other scenes with other characters, though, I was thinking, "Get to the f***in' point!"

-I was waiting for Mike Myers to break out with a "Yeeaaah baby, yeeaaah!" during his brief cameo. Though I will admit he still did a nice job keeping a straight face as the British general.

Nazi SS officer Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) is charismatic but sinister in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.

Now onto the positive parts:

-Christoph Waltz = A recipient of the Best Supporting Actor award next year (for both the Golden Globes and the Oscars)? His character may have had an extremely sudden change of heart at the end of the movie, but Waltz sure did an AWESOME JOB playing this Nazi "Jew Hunter".

-Brad Pitt totally kicks ass. He was amusing in the Oceans film trilogy by Steven Soderbergh, though I never saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button last year. I was rooting for Pitt's Aldo Raine (a.k.a. "Aldo the Apache") to "kill some Nazis" whenever he showed up on screen. Carving swastikas into Germans’ foreheads was kinda cool too. And when he said he "wanted the scalps of a hundred dead Nazi soldiers", Raine wasn't joking.


-The guy who played Adolf Hitler should get props for his performance. Hell, everyone in the film should get props for making the movie feel more authentic with their all-out French and German conversations... They put the 'British-accents-on-Nazi-soldiers-'cause-Tom-Cruise-can't-speak-German-for-s**t' aspect of Valkyrie to shame.

Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) shoots a fellow German in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.

And lastly...

-That was ONE COOL way of fictionalizing the end to the European front in World War II. Two Jewish "Basterds" blasting away at Hitler's corpse and hundreds of hapless German moviegoers inside that French theater = WIN. And what Aldo the Apache does to Hans Landa in the final scene of the movie = Another Win.


Aldo Raine and Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth) look at their gory handiwork in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The City of Angels.

SO LAST NIGHT, I dreamt that Los Angeles was being invaded by the Vietnamese army. Viet Cong troops were burning down bridges, attacking buses and scouring neighborhoods for Angelenos to take prisoner. In a reversal of roles from the Vietnam War in real life, it was good ol’ Americans who had to seek hidden shelters underground. I’d say that this dream was funny, if it did’t feel scary. Being shot at by a bunch of Commie bastards whose descendants would later take residence in Orange County in California... In Westminster and Garden Grove, to be exact. No, those cities weren’t in the dream.

Oh, and the person on the left side of this photo is the good guy. General Nguyen Ngoc Loan. The dude he's, um, blow-drying is a Viet Cong soldier. The Geneva Convention states that if a soldier is caught fighting on the battlefield while not in a uniform, he/she can be summarily...blow-dried.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SINCE I HAVEN'T TALKED about Transformers in a while, just thought I’d post these two funny pieces of artwork...courtesy of Matt Moylan on LilFormers.com. The original "Pokemon/Smurformer" comic strip can be found here. The original "Devastator & His Promiscuous Son" strip can be seen here. I came up with those titles myself. Have a good day.

Pokebee and Smurfimus Prime.

'Generation 1' Devastator scolds his perverted 'Transformers 2' offspring.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Multi-National United (MNU) security force, led by Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), prepares to evict 1 million space aliens from DISTRICT 9.

DISTRICT 9: The Review... I saw the critically-acclaimed sci-fi film twice this weekend (the first time I watched it was during a midnight screening on opening day last Friday. The second viewing was yesterday), so I think you can guess where this review is going. The movie was AWESOME. First-time feature film director Neill Blomkamp (with the help of Oscar-winning producer Peter Jackson) did a masterful job making a flick that was not only action-packed, but also carried a serious, intelligent message: If living beings from another world came to our planet one day, would we treat them the same way we occasionally treat fellow Earthlings who are completely different from us? With violence and extreme prejudice? District 9 handles this topic with intense and gory results. And I mean that in a positive way.

A prawn in DISTRICT 9.

I’m not gonna do a full synopsis on District 9...since you can just read about the story online (or, um, watch the movie?). The main character, Wikus Van De Merwe, was superbly played by Sharlto Copley...a South African director/producer who made his debut acting performance in a feature film with this flick. If anyone accuses this movie of not having any character development, then that person is, how should I say politely, a friggin’ idiot? Not to spoil anything, but Van De Merwe goes from a bumbling pencil pusher at a shady security organization called MNU (for Multi-National United) to a figure who most decisively has a good reason to relate with the alien creatures—known derisively as prawns for their lobster-like appearances in the movie—whose ship settled over Wikus’ hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa 20 years earlier. Van De Merwe just wants to be a normal person and go home to his hot-ass wife Tania (played by Vanessa Haywood) at the end of the day, but fate has something else in store for him. Van De Merwe eventually has to team up with a prawn that goes by the name of Christopher Johnson, who along with his young son (Little C.J.?) has to recover a mysterious fluid that was responsible for Wikus’turn of fate, and is vital to Johnson saving his people after learning how they were treated by MNU outside the walls of District 9.

Christopher Johnson, a prawn held captive inside an MNU armored truck, gazes out the window to see what's going on in DISTRICT 9.

For a movie with a ‘mere’ $30 million budget, District 9 looked phenomenal. The FX work done on the prawns was well-done, and I just totally dug the scenes where you see the massive alien mothership hovering silently and ominously over the city of Johannesburg. I don’t want this to sound awkward, but am I the only one here who thought Little C.J. was, um...adorable? If you thought like I did, then you would feel more sympathy for Christopher Johnson (I’ll call him C.J. from this point on) because of his smart and heroic son who helped him on his plan to reactivate the mothership and start the process of freeing his people from their current predicament outside of Johannesburg. The rich characterization by C.J. and Little C.J. is testimony to the hard work done by several FX houses, including Peter Jackson’s own company Weta Digital...which also did the epic special effects for Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. If I would have to take a wild guess for the Oscars next year, I would have to say that District 9 should be vying for the Best Visual FX award...along with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and, um, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra? HAHAHAHA! Just kidding about that last one.

Wikus Van De Merwe prepares to attack the organization that betrayed him.

Besides the alien creatures and the mothership, I also dug the FX work done on (Spoilers ahead) that robotic exosuit that Van De Merwe dons during the climax of the film...when he has to protect C.J. as he makes his way to his son and that alien shuttle that will take them up to the mothership. That suit reminded me of ED-209 from the first Robocop film, and the mech suits used during the 'Battle of Zion' sequence in The Matrix Revolutions. Speaking of Robocop, and Paul Verhoeven’s other smart action satire, Starship Troopers, District 9 had a lot of gory scenes like these two films. Most of that is attributed to the numerous shots of humans exploding whenever they were blasted by alien weaponry. The prawns are made to look pathetic as they wander around their squalid home in District 9, but me thinks that if they were in their home environment, with each of them armed with those large cannons that they casually exchanged for cat food during the film, then they would be to the humans what U.S. forces were to the Taliban in 2001. I’m talking about the war in Afghanistan, of course.

Wikus Van De Merwe inside an alien exosuit.

One last note before I end this review, the music in District 9 was pretty cool. But I think the African chant used by Hans Zimmer in Black Hawk Down (which you can clearly compare Neill Blomkamp’s film to, in a complimentary way) sounded a lot more unique. That is all. Along with The Hurt Locker, District 9 is the second best film I’ve seen this year...so far.

The prawns' mothership looms high above the alien exosuit manned by Wikus Van De Merwe.

Friday, August 14, 2009

THESE PHOTOS PISS ME OFF...but not for the reasons you'd expect. NASA finally completed the assembly of the Ares I-X rocket yesterday...making it the first new launch vehicle to reside inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in almost 30 years. Unfortunately, thanks to a series of delays, including that caused by the Hubble Servicing Mission...which was scheduled to launch in May of last year but didn’t get off the ground till this year, and the results of the Obama-appointed Augustine committee (which will most likely recommend to the president that the Ares I program be scrapped), Ares I-X might never fly. Or it WILL fly...but it will be nothing more than a publicity stunt since the launch vehicle that it is a prototype for will most likely be cancelled (Hell... It's as much a waste of money assembling Ares I-X without launching it as it is flying the vehicle as nothing more than a "glorified model rocket". Just launch the damn thing). *Sigh.* Screw you Congress, for not giving NASA the money it needs to send astronauts beyond Low-Earth Orbit once more. And screw you Obama...for not having any vision for our space program, and relying on some presidential panel to give you an inkling of an idea for what direction NASA should take. F**K THAT.

The Ares I-X rocket stands completed inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, on August 13, 2009.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Me posing in front of the Atlantis Resort in Nassau City, on New Providence Island.

ONE YEAR AGO TODAY... I went on a trip to Florida for the first time and took a cruise to The Bahamas (Nassau City, to be exact). Fun times. If you ignore the fact I gave the trip a B- because I wasn't able to visit Kennedy Space Center (KSC) due to Tropical Storm Fay. I'll upgrade the score to an A- since I was able to visit KSC earlier this year.


LINK: Photos I took in Florida and The Bahamas

The Regal Empress cruise ship docked in Nassau City, on New Providence Island.

On deck onboard the Regal Empress, at night.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The space battle above Endor.

SO I watched Return of the Jedi (a.k.a. Star Wars: Episode VI) on Spike TV earlier today...and I forgot how utterly kick-ass a film from the original Star Wars trilogy is. The space battle above Endor... Luke Skywalker goin' berserk on Darth Vader in that climactic lightsaber duel onboard the Death Star 2... Emperor Palpatine goin' berserk on Skywalker with that Force lightning attack... Yep, Episode VI rocks.


Don't taunt a Sith Lord.

Monday, August 10, 2009

DISTRICT 9.

DISTRICT 9... This Friday, Peter Jackson’s sci-fi sleeper hit of the summer will be released in theaters. I’m totally lookin’ forward to watching it. In case you’re wondering why I’m already labeling District 9 as a hit, it’s because it was made for 'only' $30 million, and it’s rated R. Considering the positive reviews that it has been getting (one reviewer said that it's Alien Nation meets Black Hawk Down... SWEEET), plus how awesome it looks in the movie trailers and TV ads (I know, I know— G.I. Joe also looked...fun in its TV commercials), I’m sure District 9 will easily make its money back. In terms of its rating, I’ve read online that the aliens have many interesting weaponry to blow the humans up with—so that’s an even more compelling reason to check out this flick. I don’t know the meaning of the word ‘sadist’... Haha. Anyways, I have 4 words and a digit before I end this journal entry: Neill Blomkamp for Transformers 3.


DISTRICT 9.
DISTRICT 9.
DISTRICT 9.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A U.S. Army bomb tech is on the move in THE HURT LOCKER.
THE HURT LOCKER... I saw the film yesterday, and I must say, it really is the best movie I’ve seen all summer. Actually, make that all year. The Hurt Locker reminded me of Black Hawk Down (yes, I know... DUUUH. They’re both, um, war flicks?) in that it conveyed nonstop suspense and intensity whenever we followed our three main protagonists (two infantrymen and a reckless bomb tech they have to protect) through the streets and desert of Iraq. In Black Hawk Down, of course, the film was one long street battle (I mean that in a good way) as special forces battled their way through the city of Mogadishu in Somalia to rescue fellow troops from a downed military chopper.

A U.S. Army bomb tech finds six explosive devices buried underneath the soil in THE HURT LOCKER.

I’ve seen other Iraq-themed movies like Jarhead, Courage Under Fire and Three Kings, but The Hurt Locker feels the most realistic of them all. Of course, in Jarhead, we spend much of the movie watching Jake Gyllenhaal waiting around to see actual combat during Operation Desert Storm (which his character never did...since the 1991 war was already won through U.S. and allied air power by the time ground forces rolled into Iraq). In Three Kings, the story is obviously a lot more fictional as George Clooney, Ice Cube and company are too busy throwing around a football and going through the Iraqi desert searching for gold. Still... That was an interesting movie. I don’t remember much from Courage Under Fire since I saw that flick waaay long time ago. Did Meg Ryan get nude in that movie? No? Well okay, The Hurt Locker is a better film.

An explosive device is detonated as U.S. soldiers look on in THE HURT LOCKER.

What makes The Hurt Locker even more exceptional is the fact it was helmed by Kathryn Bigelow. You heard right. Kathryn Bigelow. As in, a female director. Call me sexist all you want, but the fact a woman conveyed the most interesting and realistic action of all the military-themed flicks released this summer (Um, G.I. Joe and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen?) speaks volumes. I mean, sure, G.I. Joke and Revenge of the Fallen are escapist flicks...but what does it tell you when Bigelow (who also directed Patrick Swayze’s Point Break and Liam Neeson’s K-19: The Widowmaker) pulled off a much better portrayal of the U.S. military than Stephen Sommers and Michael Bay did? Michael Bay had F-22 Raptors, B-1 bombers, Predator unmanned aerial vehicles, C-17 cargo jets and M-1A1 Abrams tanks to play with in Transformers 2. Bigelow merely had Humvees and a couple of armored personnel carriers at her disposal, and despite the fact we see U.S. soldiers constantly getting preyed upon by Iraqi insurgents in Locker, I would still find this movie interesting enough to get me to join the military. Which I wouldn’t. Just sayin'.

This bomb tech (played by Jeremy Renner) is ready to shoot a would-be Iraqi insurgent in the head in THE HURT LOCKER.

All-in-all, The Hurt Locker was great. This film better get some Oscar recognition next February...seeing as how it’s one of the best reviewed flicks this year (98% Fresh at RottenTomatoes.com). Would I say that Locker is even Best Picture material? ABSOLUTELY! Especially considering the fact the Academy is planning to nominate up to 10 films for the top trophy next year. Anyways... I actually got to see one of the bomb suits used in the movie at ArcLight Cinemas more than a month ago. Here’s a photo I took of it. That is all.

A bomb suit used in The HURT LOCKER that was on display at ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood last June.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Vanessa Hudgens.
VANESSA HUDGENS is at it again... So a few days ago, new nude pics that the High School Musical star apparently took with her camera phone for her, um, boyfriend Zac Efron leaked out onto the Web. Since that time, Hudgens’ lawyers have frantically been browsing the Net to have every blog and news site remove the photos (or else)—since they were allegedly taken when Hudgens was 17. Which means, of course, you’re a sick perverted pedophile if you bothered to search for the pics on Google. Despite the fact that if you did see the pics, you’ll realize that Hudgens looks a lot hotter in those images than she does in the ones (which she took when she was 18) that were leaked out in 2007. Ironically, she seemed to have lost interest in mowing the lawn (which I referred to in the link provided at the start of this entry) since it's trimmed in the recent photos but not in the ones shown 2 years ago. Um, I probably shouldn’t have typed that last part.

That blonde girl looks like Kate Hudson (but isn't).

Anyways... It seems like this incident is more of a publicity stunt this time around...seeing as how Hudgens’ new movie Bandslam comes out in theaters next Friday (To Summit Entertainment and/or Walden Media: PAY ME, b*****s. I was kind enough to show the poster above). Which is the same day District 9 gets released. Darn you, Hudgens. So not only did she supposedly freak out when she discovered that Efron was hangin’ out with Megan Fox (Don’t worry Vanessa— They were probably chattin' and swoonin' over Brian Austin Green), but Hudgens is presumably worried that her next flick isn’t gonna do well at the box office. For someone who apparently enjoys being a nudist, Hudgens sure has confidence issues.

The poster for DISTRICT 9, which comes out in theaters next Friday.

Friday, August 07, 2009

A computer-generated image of the Kepler telescope in space.
NASA

KEPLER Update...

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NASA'S Kepler Mission Spies Changing Phases in a Distant World (Updated from yesterday's press release)

WASHINGTON -- NASA's new exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope has detected the atmosphere of a known giant gas planet, demonstrating the telescope's extraordinary scientific capabilities. The discovery will be published today in the journal Science.

The find is based on a relatively short 10 days of test data collected before the official start of science operations. Kepler was launched March 6, 2009, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The observation demonstrates the extremely high precision of the measurements made by the telescope, even before its calibration and data analysis software were finished.

"As NASA's first exoplanets mission, Kepler has made a dramatic entrance on the planet-hunting scene," said Jon Morse, director of the Science Mission Directorate's Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Detecting this planet's atmosphere in just the first 10 days of data is only a taste of things to come. The planet hunt is on!"

Kepler team members say these new data indicate the mission is indeed capable of finding Earth-like planets, if they exist. Kepler will spend the next three-and-a-half years searching for planets as small as Earth, including those that orbit stars in a warm zone where there could be water. It will do this by looking for periodic dips in the brightness of stars, which occur when orbiting planets transit, or cross in front of, the stars.

"When the light curves from tens of thousands of stars were shown to the Kepler science team, everyone was awed; no one had ever seen such exquisitely detailed measurements of the light variations of so many different types of stars," said William Borucki, the principal science investigator and lead author of the paper.

The observations were collected from a planet called HAT-P-7, known to transit a star located about 1,000 light years from Earth. The planet orbits the star in just 2.2 days and is 26 times closer than Earth is to the sun. Its orbit, combined with a mass somewhat larger than the planet Jupiter, classifies this planet as a "hot Jupiter." It is so close to its star, the planet is as hot as the glowing red heating element on a stove.

The Kepler measurements show the transit from the previously detected HAT-P-7. However, these new measurements are so precise, they also show a smooth rise and fall of the light between transits caused by the changing phases of the planet, similar to those of our moon. This is a combination of both the light emitted from the planet and the light reflected off the planet. The smooth rise and fall of light is also punctuated by a small drop in light, called an occultation, exactly halfway between each transit. An occultation happens when a planet passes behind a star.

The new Kepler data can be used to study this hot Jupiter in unprecedented detail. The depth of the occultation and the shape and amplitude of the light curve show the planet has an atmosphere with a day-side temperature of about 4,310 degrees Fahrenheit. Little of this heat is carried to the cool night side. The occultation time compared to the main transit time shows the planet has a circular orbit. The discovery of light from this planet confirms the predictions by researchers and theoretical models that the emission would be detectable by Kepler.

This new discovery also demonstrates Kepler has the precision to find Earth-size planets. The observed brightness variation is just one and a half times what is expected for a transit caused by an Earth-sized planet. Although this is already the highest precision ever obtained for an observation of this star, Kepler will be even more precise after analysis software being developed for the mission is completed.

"This early result shows the Kepler detection system is performing right on the mark," said David Koch, deputy principal investigator of NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. "It bodes well for Kepler's prospects to be able to detect Earth-size planets."

Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. Ames is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., is responsible for developing the Kepler flight system and supporting mission operations.

Source: NASA Kepler website

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An artist's concept of a 'Hot Jupiter' orbiting its star.
ESA / C. Carreau