Glass maker Corning will play a key role in the manufacturing of the photometer, a device that measures the brightness of light, for NASA's Kepler Mission to detect Earth-like planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system. Corning will manufacture a 1.4-meter diameter lightweight primary mirror blank from its ULE zero expansion glass material that will be used in the fabrication of the photometer instrument.
"We've drawn upon our glass technology and manufacturing expertise to produce materials with unprecedented precision, homogeneity, and the ability to withstand the extreme thermal fluctuations experienced in a space environment," said Jim Steiner, senior vice president and general manager of Corning's Specialty Materials division.
"Corning has a long history of building lightweight mirrors for use in space applications, and our contribution to the Kepler Mission is yet another honor for us."
Using the photometer instrument, Kepler will continuously measure the brightness of 100,000 stars similar to our sun for four years. The goal of the mission is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems, with a special emphasis on searching for Earth-size planets. If Kepler detects many habitable, Earth-size planets, it may mean the universe is full of life.
Space-based mirror applications require materials that can perform to the demanding standards of space research and the extreme environmental conditions of space. Therefore, the primary mirrors in applications like the Kepler Photometer must be extremely lightweight, precise, and stable in order to perform successfully in orbit.
Corning has manufactured materials for many of the world's most powerful telescopes including the mirror for the Hubble space telescope, as well as the windows for every manned U.S. space flight and the International Space Station.
The Kepler Mission is planned to launch in the fall of 2007 as part of the NASA Discovery program. Discovery is an ongoing program with the goal of enhancing scientific understanding of the solar system by exploring the planets, their moons, and small bodies such as comets and asteroids. The Kepler Mission is based at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The Kepler Mission
Corning Semiconductor Optics
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The Missing Link In Planet Formation
Pasadena - Oct 21, 2003
Just as anthropologists sought "the missing link" between apes and humans, astronomers are embarking on a quest for a missing link in planetary evolution. Only instead of dusty fields and worn shovels, their laboratory is the universe, and their tool of choice is NASA's new Space Infrared Telescope Facility.
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