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Kepler Mission

— Space

NASA abandons Kepler repairs, looks to the future

If NASA has anything to say about it, Kepler is down, but not out. At a press teleconference on Thursday it announced that it has abandoned efforts to repair the damaged unmanned probe, which was designed to search for extrasolar planets and is no longer steady enough to continue its hunt. But the space agency is looking into alternative missions for the spacecraft based on its remaining capabilities. Read More
— Space

Scientists propose using gravity microlensing to keep Kepler in the hunt

Last month, NASA declared its Kepler mission to hunt exoplanets at an end when one of the space telescope’s reaction wheels failed. Unable to keep itself pointed in the right direction, it could no longer carry on its hunt for planets beyond the Solar System. That seemed like the end of things, but Keith Horne of the University of St Andrews and Andrew Gould of Ohio State University disagree. They claim that Kepler could still hunt for exoplanets using gravity microlensing to detect how stars with planets distort space. Read More
— Space

"Einstein's planet" becomes first exoplanet discovered using new detection method

Due to their relative faintness compared to their parent stars, most known exoplanets have been discovered using indirect detection methods – that is, detecting the effects they have rather than observing them directly. There are numerous indirect methods that have proven useful in the detection of exoplanets and now yet another, which relies on Einstein’s special theory of relativity, has joined the list with the discovery of an exoplanet known as Kepler-76b. Read More
— Science

Scientists say at least one in six stars has an Earth-sized planet

The latest analysis of data coming from NASA's Kepler telescope has revealed that nearly all the Sun-like stars in our galaxy appear to have planets orbiting them, and that at least 17 percent of them – about one in six – are hosting a planet the size of our own in close orbit. Because the Milky Way is estimated to contain some 100 billion stars, this means that our galaxy alone could have at least 17 billion Earth-sized planets, some of which may harbor the conditions for life. Read More
— Space

NASA: mission accomplished, Kepler – now look harder still

It's been more than three and a half years since the Kepler Space Telescope began its mission as humanity's watcher for Earth-like planets outside of the Solar System. In that time, Kepler has done exactly what was asked of it: provide the data to help identify more than 2,300 exoplanet candidates in other star systems. And so NASA has announced the "successful completion" of Kepler's prime mission. There's one nagging detail, though: we are yet to find a truly Earth-like planet. It's time to alter the parameters of the search. Read More
— Science

First Earth-size planets discovered beyond our solar system

NASA has discovered the first earth-size planets outside of our solar system. The discovery was made as part of NASA's Kepler mission and involves the discovery of two planets currently named after the project: Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f. If the Kepler name sounds familiar, that's because NASA also recently announced the discovery of Kepler-22b, the most Earth-like planet discovered to date. Kepler 22b is orbiting a star similar to our sun, and is capable of possessing liquid water, an essential feature for life to exist on a planet. Read More
— Science

Kepler mission discovers most Earth-like planet to date

The ongoing search for Earth-like worlds has taken another promising step. On December 5, NASA announced the discovery of the planet most likely so far to sustain life outside of the Solar System. The exoplanet, given the undramatic name of Kepler 22b, was found by NASA's Kepler spacecraft as part of its mission to seek out Earth-type planets in our galaxy. Though Kepler 22b is not the first such planet to be detected in recent years, it is the first one orbiting a star similar to our Sun and at a distance where it is capable of possessing liquid water, which most scientists regard as essential for life to exist. Though this is a significant milestone, the question remains, how good a candidate for a second Earth is Kepler 22b? Could there be life there or is it a planetary blind alley? Read More
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