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Kepler Mission

Artist's impression of the Kepler space telescope (Image: NASA)

NASA's Kepler space telescope's count of exoplanets has passed the magic 1,000 mark, including eight new "habitable" planets and 544 candidate planets. Having confirmed so many exoplanets and their characteristics provides a database large enough to allow astronomers to carry out statistical analysis and make very rough predictions about how many planets there are in our galaxy, as well as the odds of finding another Earth.  Read More

Artist's concept of Kepler carrying out its new K2 mission(Image: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T ...

NASA's Kepler space telescope shows that it still has life in it as its extended mission begins to bear fruit. This week, the space agency announced that the spacecraft detected a new exoplanet, demonstrating that its K2 life extension mission is working. The planet, called, HIP 116454b, is 2.5 times larger in diameter than the Earth and orbits a star 180 light years from Earth in the constellation of Pisces every nine days at a distance that makes it much too hot for it to sustain life.  Read More

Artist's concept of HAT-P-11b crossing in front of its star (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In a display of interstellar teamwork, NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes have discovered clear skies and water vapor in the atmosphere of a Neptune-sized planet orbiting a star 120 light years from Earth. According to the space agency, this may not only provide insights into the formation of giant exoplanets, but also act as a new tool for detecting water on Earth-like planets orbiting other stars.  Read More

Artists impression of the Uranus-sized exoplanet Kepler-421b (Image: Daid A. Aguilar)

With the aid of NASA's Kepler spacecraft, a team of astronomers, including members from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has discovered an exoplanet with the longest yearly cycle ever recorded. The planet, imaginatively named Kepler-421b, takes an impressive 704 days to orbit its parent, a dim type K star.  Read More

Kepler-10c is 17 times more massive than the Earth (Image: NASA/Harvard-Smithsonian Center...

Despite being currently offline, the Kepler space telescope is still turning up surprises. One of them is an Earth-like planet that’s so large that astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics call it a “mega-Earth.” Planet Kepler-10c is 17 times heavier than the Earth, and may require scientists to rethink their ideas on planet formation and the likelihood of life in our galaxy.  Read More

Artist's impression of Kepler-186f (Image: NASA)

The search for extraterrestrial life zeroed in a bit today as NASA announced that its unmanned Kepler Space Telescope detected the most Earth-like planet yet found beyond the Solar System. Named Kepler-186f, the new planet orbits a red dwarf star about 500 light years away from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, is only 10 percent larger than our planet, and could have liquid water, which is essential for life as we know it.  Read More

“Kepler has produced results needed to take the next big step forward in humankind's searc...

It’s been five years since NASA’s $600 million Kepler Space Telescope was launched to look for planets beyond our Solar System – so-called exoplanets – and while the quest to find a twin for Earth has so far been fruitless, Kepler’s observations have revealed our galaxy to be full of worlds potentially able to support life.  Read More

Artist's concept of exoplanet systems (Image: NASA)

It’s a good thing that planets outside our Solar System get catalog designations instead of proper names, or space scientists would now be scraping the barrel for “Ralph” or “Tigger.” That’s because on Wednesday, NASA announced that the Kepler space telescope had hit the “motherload” of exoplanets, confirming 715 new planets in 315 star systems. It used a new statistical technique that the space agency says has removed a bottleneck that has plagued the analysis of the Kepler data.  Read More

Artist's concept of the Kepler space telescope (Image: NASA)

Last year, it looked as though the Kepler space probe had nothing to look forward to but the scrap heap. After the failure of two of its reaction wheels, the unmanned spacecraft was incapable of maintaining the precision pointing needed to hunt planets beyond the Solar System. Now, however, NASA’s Kepler team has demonstrated that space telescope can still detect exoplanets thanks the K2 mission concept maneuver.  Read More

An artist's concept of Kepler (Image: NASA)

Last August, it looked as if the NASA's Kepler space telescope was as good as scrap due to the failure of its attitude control system. Now the space agency proposes what it calls the K2 mission concept, which will give the unmanned probe "second light" by using the Sun to regain attitude control and allow Kepler to resume its search for extrasolar planets.  Read More

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