Kepler's Streak

Streaking skyward, a Delta II rocket carries NASA's Kepler spacecraft aloft
into the clear night of March 6. The dramatic scene was recorded in a time
exposure from the crowded pier in Jetty Park at the northern end of Cocoa
Beach, Florida, about 3 miles from the Cape Canaveral launch site. Kepler's
mission is to search for Earth-like planets orbiting in the habitable zone of
other stars. A planet orbiting within a star's habitable zone would have a
surface temperature capable of supporting liquid water, an essential
ingredient for life as we know it. To find Earth-like planets, Kepler's
telescope and large, sensitive camera will examine a rich star field near
the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Located in the constellation Cygnus,
Kepler's field of view will allow it to monitor the brightness of many stars
in the solar neighborhood and detect a slight dimming as a potential Earth-like
planet crosses in front of the star.