NASA’s planet-hunting telescope, Kepler, rocketed into space March 6 on a historic voyage to track down other Earths in a faraway patch of the Milky Way galaxy, reports the Associated Press. It’s the first mission capable of answering the age-old question: Are other worlds like ours out there? Kepler’s mission will last at least three-and-a-half years and cost $600 million. The goal is to find, if they exist, Earth-like planets circling stars in the so-called habitable zone–orbits where liquid water could be present on the surface of the planets. That would mean there are other places out there for life to evolve. Once it’s settled into an Earth-trailing orbit around the sun, Kepler will stare nonstop at 100,000 stars near the Cygnus and Lyra constellations, between 600 and 3,000 light years away. The telescope will watch for any dimming, or winks, in the stellar brightness that might be caused by orbiting planets. Astronomers already have found more than 300 planets orbiting other stars, but they’re largely inhospitable gas giants like Jupiter. Kepler will be looking for smaller rocky planets akin to Earth…

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