Scientists Thought Damaged Space Telescope was Done for Good — Then They Saw These Pictures…

NASA’s Kepler space-based telescope continues to provide cosmologists wit new and exciting finds, reports Scientific American.

Launched in 2009, Kepler’s mission was to find planets as closely similar to Earth as possible. Four years into its mission one of its ‘reaction wheels’ that helps stabilize and orient the craft failed to work. All was thought lost, but scientists devised a way to steady the craft using the pressure from sunlight to stabilize the telescope.

And it is a good thing they did, because Kepler has been on a tear discovering 292 exoplanets, with thousands more awaiting the studious eyes of cosmologists.

Exoplanets are those stellar objects found outside of our solar system. With Kepler’s launch, NASA began to analyze 150,000 stars in search of planets that could host the human race.

Up until this month, Kepler had assessed 197 good candidates out of a pool of 4,440 it has focused on. Then, in February, it was announced that 95 more had been confirmed as possibly similar to Earth.

Scientists are using ‘signals’ from the exoplanets to help narrow down the list.

“We found that some of the signals were caused by multiple star systems or noise from the spacecraft,” study lead author Andrew Mayo, a Ph.D. student at the Technical University of Denmark’s National Space Institute, said in a statement. “But we also detected planets that range from sub-Earth-sized to the size of Jupiter and larger.”

Interestingly, one of the newly confirmed exoplanets, labeled HD 212657, Indeed, has left a strong impression on scientists.

“We validated a planet on a 10-day orbit around a star called HD 212657, which is now the brightest star found by either the Kepler or K2 missions to host a validated planet,” Mayo said. “Planets around bright stars are important because astronomers can learn a lot about them from ground-based observatories.”

The new findings from Kepler have been published in the February 15 edition of the Astronomical Journal.

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