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Kepler Mission

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

Artist's concept of Kepler-62f, an Earth-like planet (Image: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/Tim Pyl...

Bookmakers may be revising their odds on the question of us being alone in the Universe after scientists revealed that our galaxy could hold billions of habitable worlds. University of California Berkeley and University of Hawaii (UH) astronomers carried out a study using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope to provide part of the answer to the question, “How many of the 200 billion stars in our galaxy have potentially habitable planets?” The answer they got back was that one in five sun-like stars may have Earth-size planets that could support life.  Read More

Comparison of Kepler-7b and Jupiter (Image: NASA)

"How's the weather?" has just become a topic of interstellar conversation. Using data from NASA's Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes, astronomers have mapped the first clouds discovered on an extrasolar planet. Not only does this technique give us an interesting bit of pure science, it could also be applied in the search for more earth-like planets according to NASA.  Read More

Kepler 78b has a year 8.5 hours long and orbits its sun at a distance only three times the...

Sometimes it seems as if the year just flies by. On planet Kepler 78b, it does exactly that. According to a team of scientists at MIT, the extrasolar world is so close to its sun that its year is only 8.5 hours long. That means that not only could a person go through almost three birthdays in one day, but that the surface temperature would be like taking up residence in a blast furnace.  Read More

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