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Big Discovery: First Earth-Sized Exoplanet in Habitable Zone of Another Star

Artist’s conception of Kepler-186f in orbit around its red dwarf star. Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

Today was another big day for those interested in space exploration and in the search for other Earth-like, alien worlds in particular: The first Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting another star in the habitable zone has been discovered, it was [...]

Exoplanet Bonanza: Kepler Confirms More than 700 New Worlds

Illustration showing multiple-transiting planetary systems, such as those found by Kepler. Image Credit: NASA

There was more exciting exoplanet news this week from the Kepler mission: the space telescope has confirmed 715 new exoplanets! This brings the current total number of such worlds to 1,766, of which 961 have been found by Kepler. There are [...]

PLATO Exoplanet Mission Proposal Awaits Final Selection by ESA, Following Recent Positive Recommendation

The European Space Agency’s PLATO mission aims to discover and characterize hundreds of Earth-sized exoplanets inside the habitable zones of approximately 1 million stars. The mission is likely to be approved for implementation by ESA during an announcement due for next week. Image Credit: PLATO Definition Study Report/ESA

 

The European Space Agency’s Science [...]

Of Exoplanets and Habitability: Exploring the Possibility of 'Superhabitable Worlds'

Artist’s impression of an exoplanet with a mass approximately 3.6 times that of Earth, discovered orbiting just inside of the habitable zone of the Sun-like star HD 85512. Are “Super-Earths” such as this the most promising candidates for harboring extraterrestrial life? Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

“For there is a single general space, a single [...]

Solar System 2.0: Planetary System Discovered With Architecture Similar to Our Own

A comparison of planetary system KOI-351 with our own Solar System. Image Credit: German Aerospace Center.

“Second star to the right, and straight on ’till morning.”

 — Captain James T. Kirk, ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’ (1991).

It is unclear which types of planets did the fictional Enterprise crew discover around the [...]

Planets, Planets Everywhere

What a wonderful and amazing Scheme have we here of the magnificent Vastness of the Universe! So many Suns, so many Earths, and every one of them stock’d with so many Herbs, Trees and Animals, and adorn’d with so many Seas and Mountains! And how must our wonder and admiration be encreased [...]

Can Kepler Be Saved? Engineering Team to Attempt Recovery of Ailing Space Telescope

Artist’s illustration of Kepler in orbit. Image Credit: NASA / Kepler mission / Wendy Stenzel

The Kepler space telescope has been nothing short of incredible, revolutionizing our understanding of exoplanets and showing just how common and diverse they really are (as the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction). Recently, however, additional mechanical problems [...]

Astronomy at the High Frontier

Hubble Space Telescope, as seen from the Shuttle Atlantis during the fourth servicing mission in May 2009. Photo Credit: NASA

The atmosphere is a problem for astronomers for two big reasons: it’s turbulent, so it smears out the light from cosmic objects, and it blocks out huge swathes of the electromagnetic spectrum. To see [...]

What Comes After Kepler?

The Kepler Space Telescope has had another of its reastion wheels fail, meaning the spacecraft’s mission of finding Earth-like worlds is probably over. Image Credit: NASA

Launched on March 7, 2009, NASA’s Kepler space telescope, designed to hunt for Earth-sized planets orbiting other stars, has proved to be an outstanding success and has surpassed [...]

Reaction Wheel Failure Places Kepler Mission in Jeopardy

Image Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA announced May 15 that a second reaction wheel on the Kepler spacecraft has failed. This is forcing officials at the space agency to reconsider what mission that space-based telescope is now capable of conducting. Kepler went into safe mode Tuesday. When controllers went about recovering Kepler, they discovered that one [...]