Kepler Earth Sized planet Hunter Launches Today

The Kepler Planet Hunting mission launches today. H/T Sander Olson.

The Kepler spacecraft will stare at a patch of sky – the same 100,000 stars near the northern constellation Cygnus, all at once – for at least 3-1/2 years. The goal is to detect Earth-like planets orbiting their host stars at distances thought to be sweet spots for life.

If all goes well, Kepler’s journey will start with the launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida at around 10:49 p.m. Eastern time.

The one-ton Kepler observatory boasts a 1.4-meter (4-1/2 foot) diameter mirror and a push-the-envelope camera, according to James Fanson, project manager for the Kepler mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. A typical digital camera has roughly eight million to 10 million individual picture elements, or pixels, on its light detector. Kepler’s camera boasts 95 million pixels.

The camera won’t take pictures of the stars it monitors, however. Instead, it will measure changes in starlight as an orbiting planet slips in front of its host star.

Picking the targets, 100,000 sun-like stars, was no cake walk. Astronomers spent five years methodically measuring traits of 4.5 million stars in Kepler’s planned field of view.

Out of the resulting 100,000-star catalog, Kepler scientists estimate that perhaps only 10 percent have planets with orbital periods short enough to allow for repeated detections within Kepler’s 3-1/2 year primary mission length. Some 0.5 percent of the 100,000 stars are expected to reveal planets orbiting at Earth-like distances.

That still means there is potential to find hundreds of Earth-like planets orbiting in that sweet spot. The solar systems range in distance from around 50 light-years away to some 3,000 light-years or more.

Wired has live video feed of the Kepler Launch

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Richard, your history as an internet troll is well documented online but occasionally you can contribute to a conversation. So I published the prior comment since it is not rude and has a contribution. (not necessarily fully correct but a contribution to the discussion)

Now to answer your post.

Yes, increasing transit has some value. However, the payoff that you are talking about does not start for many decades. Plus it requires generations of politicians (local and regional) to work together for decades. Many of the public transit/public works projects end up failing [see Big Dig] and some of the places that spend quite a bit of money do not achieve the highest levels of ridership of the best cities.

There is also the comparison of trillions on mass transit projects versus other kinds of technology.

Optimally rail mass transit can provide the equivalent of 500mpg.
However, new electric vehicles can achieve comparable mileage equivalents. (Aptera electric vehicles)

Robotically driven vehicles or assisted (enhanced cruise control) driving could allow platooning of vehicles. Formation driving where gaps of one vehicle length can be safely maintained. This can provide 30-50% reduction in drag and increased fuel savings.

Sometimes it does not make sense to have a one size fits all policy and expect that people in LA will become like people in Vienna in regards to adoption of transit. So the need to consider what people in a locality will be willing to do and to influence where possible but to also accept what is not changing and optimize it.

Make the each item in the buffet of transportation choices acceptable or more tolerable.


> I will show that going from 3-5% public transportation up to 20-30% will still leave 70-80% driving cars. It will cost 1% of GDP for 50 years. So 40% of oil for cars goes to 30%. US 20.8 million barrels of oil per day goes to 18.5-20 million barrels of oil per day.

So what? 2 million barrels per day (and rail transit usage is always underestimated) is 700 million barrels per year which at 100$ per barrel is 70 billion per year. You say it would cost 1% of GDP yet that's 110 billion. So already 2/3 of the costs are recouped just in saved fuel. Nevermind reduced costs in traffic accidents, mortality, and air pollution.

But nevermind that, do delete my comment.


unimodal (skytran) seems like it solves the time and some of the convenience issues of existing forms of public transportation. When I've talked to people at work, time is the number one reason why public transport is unacceptable. However we now have the technology to create much faster than automobile public transport. I would also be interested in seeing Curitiba added to the graphs you've produced.


there will be changes to suburbs and cities.

Vancouver/LA and other places are looking at rezoning to allow for taller buildings in suburbs and other areas. Plus suburbs will have areas rezoned for more offices and mini-ciy centers.

any new plan has to have profit in it for developers to make money changing what exists.

Some places may get abandoned. Detroit may not recover if the car companies do not recover.

But LA with a lot of population growth will be able to adapt and adjust and re-invent itself.

the equations however still do not change much. Because building a lot of public transit and reworking infrastructure and city layouts takes a long time (decades) and a lot of money.

What is the fastest rebuilding of a city that you have seen.
Building a new city can be done faster than rebuilding an old one.
the fastest that I know of is Shenzhen and the other chinese cities that have sprung up in the Chinese economic boom. But I do not think western cities will follow the more lax building standards.

Although it can be nearly as fast if one were to bomb/destroy the old one (ie. Berlin and other German cities after WW2).


Have you factored in how high fuel prices lead to deserted suburbs, thereby increasing density?" REL="nofollow">Suburbs, the slums of the future.

Once most people live in urban environments again, I bet the equations look different.

6" REL="nofollow">You are right James 20.8 million bpd was the peak. (so not 22 million bpd.)

However, you are confused about the oil production. The USA has 8.5 million bpd of total oil production. The 5 million bpd is crude oil. Thus 12-12.5 million bpd of net imports." REL="nofollow">Link for EIA for all countries



Its generally reasonable to assume that public transportation use decreases over time with large amounts of land available (such as in America or Australia).

Group transportation methods save money and energy at the expense of privacy and convenience and time. As societies get richer, which free societies do over time, they trade off money for convenience in greater amounts.

In very dense environments, public transportation may always save time which means it will continue to be used by most people.

As sort of an aside - You say that the US has oil consumption of 22 million barrels per day.

I've read other people say that the US uses 20 million barrels per day.

According to US energy department statistics - found here: - the US imports about 13 million barrels per day (for all uses), produces another 5 million barrels per day, and then exports about 1.2 million barrels per day (mostly of refined products).

Doesn't that mean we burn about 17 million barrels (18 in the summer) per day, not 22, not 20?

James Becker