Kepler is a planet-hunting powerhouse

Kepler is the plucky little spacecraft that taught us that planets are everywhere. It captured the imagination of farmers, citizen-scientists, and astronomers alike. This is the story of Kepler: a celebration of turning the theories of planetary science upside-down. » 3/14/14 11:40am 3/14/14 11:40am

Kepler's Latest Exoplanet Hoard, Graphed

Here's some impressive planetary perspective: Last Wednesday, NASA's Kepler mission announced the discovery of 715 newly confirmed exoplanets, nearly doubling the total number of verified planets beyond our solar system. This animated graph, courtesy of NASA, helps put that discovery into context. » 3/02/14 1:00pm 3/02/14 1:00pm

NASA Confirms the Existence of 715 New Exoplanets

Using a new verification technique, Kepler scientists have confirmed the existence of 715 new exoplanets — four of which are located within their star's habitable zone. It's the single largest windfall of new confirmations at any one time. » 2/26/14 12:10pm 2/26/14 12:10pm

The Kepler telescope has changed how we see ourselves in the Universe

Twenty years ago, we didn't know if there were any planets orbiting stars other than our own. Today, it's estimated that each of the roughly 100-billion stars in our galaxy has, on average, 1.6 planets orbiting around it, as this video from astronomers and science-communicators Tony Darnell and Scott Lewis explains. » 2/21/14 8:40am 2/21/14 8:40am

The Kepler Space Telescope has lived to see another day – and planet!

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. » 2/07/14 4:40pm 2/07/14 4:40pm

How can we possibly guess what an exoplanet's atmosphere is like?

The transit-method of exoplanet-detection is pretty straightforward, conceptually: First you find a distant star. If the light from it dims, it could be due to a planet in its orbit that has passed between it and your telescope. But how do scientists determine how big these distant planets are, what they're made of,… » 12/04/13 1:40pm 12/04/13 1:40pm

Earth's galactic neighborhood sure is crowded

Via XKCD comes this lovely chart of Earth's newly-discovered exoplanetary neighbors. Extrapolated from the latest batch of Kepler data, the diagram depicts the number and sizes of planets thought to exist in the habitable zones of stars within 60 light years of Earth. Is it just me, or does it feel a little cramped in… » 12/03/13 7:20am 12/03/13 7:20am

Hell Yes: NASA Aims to Revive Kepler Mission with Clever Plan

The Kepler telescope was relieved of planet-hunting duties back in August, when researchers determined that failed alignment hardware, necessary for the spacecraft's proper function, was beyond saving. At the time, NASA said it was open to ideas on how the otherwise functional spacecraft might be put to new use. Now,… » 11/27/13 7:40am 11/27/13 7:40am

Astronomers have discovered a tilted solar system

Astronomers have discovered the first known example of a "tilted" solar system – that is, a star whose equator tilts steeply away from the plane in which its planets orbit. It's an unprecedented find, one that could help explain how some planets wind up in wonky orbits. » 10/18/13 2:20pm 10/18/13 2:20pm

Habitable moons beyond our solar system? Astronomers say it's possible.

Astronomers believe that hidden deep within the wealth of data collected by NASA’s Kepler mission are minuscule signatures confirming the presence of exomoons. With such a promising discovery on the horizon, researchers are beginning to address the factors that may deem these alien moons habitable. » 9/26/13 1:20pm 9/26/13 1:20pm

NASA says Kepler isn't quite dead yet

According to NASA, the ailing Kepler Space Telescope is officially beyond repair, and is hereby relieved of its planet-hunting duties. But the Agency isn't giving up entirely. The question now turns to how the prolific spacecraft might be put to new use, and NASA is open to suggestions. » 8/16/13 1:00pm 8/16/13 1:00pm

NASA will attempt to rescue the planet-hunting Kepler Telescope

NASA's Kepler Telescope is in trouble. The planet-hunting probe has been out of commission since May, when a reaction wheel that allowed researchers here on Earth to control its orientation broke down. Now, NASA is launching an effort to save the mission. » 7/19/13 4:40pm 7/19/13 4:40pm

Revisiting Kepler’s Most Mind-Blowing Discoveries

NASA’s Kepler space telescope is busted and it may never work normally again. But during its four years of exemplary service, the planet-hunting telescope provided astronomers with an unprecedented glimpse into the Milky Way. Here are the most incredible discoveries made by Kepler. » 5/17/13 9:00am 5/17/13 9:00am

The Kepler space telescope is spinning out of control

After four years of service, NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler telescope has suffered a second serious malfunction — one that threatens to permanently end the mission. Controllers on the ground can no longer control its orientation. It looks bad, but NASA isn’t giving up hope. » 5/16/13 7:00am 5/16/13 7:00am

NASA has discovered the most Earth-like planets yet

NASA's Kepler mission has discovered a trio of distant planets that look remarkably like our own. Belonging to solar systems located 1,200 and 2,700 light years from Earth, the three Earth-sized worlds have been spotted orbiting in the so-called Goldilocks Zone of their parent stars – the "just-right" range at which… » 4/18/13 1:01pm 4/18/13 1:01pm