100+ New Planets Discovered By Kepler Spacecraft

NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft telescope has helped confirm 104 new planets outside of our solar system. 

jon round 1By  Jonathan Stroud

A team of international scientists led by the University of Arizona have verified the existence of additional exoplanets, increasing the total discovered to 2,327 according to NASA Ames Research Center.

Exoplanets are planets that are found orbiting stars outside of our own solar system. So far most discoveries consist of gas giants, ice giants, and hot-super-Earths.

The study published in the Astrophysical Journal adds to the 7 years of research that the Kepler spacecraft telescope has brought scientists. In the report researchers found 104 confirmable planets out of a possible 197 candidates.

Researchers in the study also speculate that, “If K2 [Kepler] continues to observe, based on current discoveries we would expect a planet yield roughly 4–5 times as great as that currently produced… we expect K2 [Kepler] to find anywhere from 500–1000 planets over its total mission lifetime.

NASA launched the The Kepler spacecraft telescope in 2009 with the mission to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems. The craft was almost decommissioned in 2012 and 2013 when it ran into technical issues. An issue arose with the spacecraft’s reaction wheels, which act as gyroscopes allowing researchers to adjust Kepler’s position. Luckily, second life was given to Kepler when NASA scientists saved the craft by using sunlight to help balance it, giving way to Kepler’s new mission known as K2.

K2 aimed to use Kepler to collect data on supernovas, the formation of stars, asteroids, and comets, along with its mission to scan for exoplanets. The first K2 campaign began in May 2014 but the spacecraft ran into another problem in April 2016. The Kepler was preparing for a campaign when it went into a protective “safe mode” for 144 hours. Kepler shut down all non-essential systems and engineers were able to safely regain normal functions a few days later.

While Kepler has encountered multiple issues to date, scientists are still hopeful that the spacecraft will reveal more exoplanets and mysteries about our Universe.

*Featured photo credit: NASA

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