It would appear that news of Kepler's demise has been greatly exaggerated. The planet-hunting space telescope, which suffered a major malfunction last May, is back online — and it's already managed to observe another planet.
The planet, a hot-Jupiter called WASP-28b, was already known to scientists. But it's solid evidence that Kepler, after some important adjustments, is ready to resume its responsibilities. Astronomers confirmed Kepler's observations of WASP-28b last month.
This is truly awesome news. The $600 million space telescope has been responsible for a remarkable number of discoveries — including 132 exoplanets and another 2,700 candidates.
As you'll recall, a mechanical failure caused the steering system to go wonky, making it impossible for Kepler to hold its orientation steady as it searches the heavens for planetary transits. Specifically, two of its four reaction wheels broke down. But a plan developed last November, in which pressure pulled in from the sun's radiation could be used to hold the craft steady for 75 days at a time, appears to have worked.
Right on — here's to Kepler and the never-say-die K2 team.