Dennis Overbye Makes Page 3 on a Friday – Kepler is Hobbled

New York Times

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NASA Planet-Hunting Star Idled by Broken Parts

Friday, August 16, 2013
Dennis Overbye

NASA said Thursday that its celebrated planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft, which broke down in May when a reaction wheel that controls its pointing failed, could not be fixed and would never again search for planets around other stars.

kepler
Kepler

The disappointing news brings to an end, for now, one phase of the most romantic of space dreams, the search for other Earths among the exoplanets of the Milky Way. NASA has already asked astronomers for ideas on how to use the hobbled spacecraft, whose telescope is in perfect shape.

At last count, Kepler had discovered 3,548 possible planets, and 135 of them — some smaller than the Earth — have been validated by other observations, including earthbound telescopes. But hundreds or thousands more are in the pipeline, said William Borucki of NASA’s Ames Research Laboratory in Mountain View, Calif., Kepler’s originator and principal investigator.

The closest Kepler has come to finding another Earth was in April, when the team discovered a pair of planets about half again as big as the Earth orbiting a yellow star, now known as Kepler 62, that is 1,200 light years away. Both planets reside in the “Goldilocks” zone where temperatures should be lukewarm and suitable for liquid water and thus life as we imagine it.”

62
Kepler-62f (foreground) and Kepler-62e (right) are habitable zone exoplanets orbiting the star Kepler-62 (center). (Artists’ conception.) Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

See the full article here.

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