Kepler Honored, Not Mourned: Even without Telescope, Scientists Will Hunt Planets

By Grant, Andrew | Science News, June 15, 2013 | Go to article overview

Kepler Honored, Not Mourned: Even without Telescope, Scientists Will Hunt Planets


Grant, Andrew, Science News


When scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics scheduled a conference called "Exoplanets in the Post-Kepler Era" for May 2013, they figured that era would still be several years off when the meeting happened. But after May's malfunction of a crucial piece of equipment on NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, the gathering of more than 100 astronomers in Cambridge, Mass., proved all too timely.

As astronomers presented new planetary measurements and observation techniques, Kepler engineers in California were strategizing about how to remotely repair one of two broken reaction wheels that precisely point the telescope. They planned to beam commands up to the $600-million telescope, but admit that a fix is a long shot.

Kepler is shut down and probably out of service for good (SN Online: 5/15/13). But its discoveries have revolutionized scientists' understanding of planets beyond the solar system and are steering the course of existing and future missions. Though astronomers would have liked to have gotten a few more years out of the instrument, it already has planet hunters more confident than ever that they will detect an Earthlike world with the ingredients and conditions for life.

"This is still an upbeat, exciting field," says David Latham, a Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer and member of the Kepler team. "Kepler contributed enormously, and now we're excited to go on to the next steps."

Kepler has become so synonymous with exoplanets that it can be hard to remember the state of the science before the telescope launched. When a Delta II rocket carried Kepler into space on March 6, 2009, astronomers knew that the galaxy contained at least 350 exoplanets, nearly all of them the size of Jupiter or larger.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

After four years detecting the shadows of stars' orbiting worlds, Kepler has added nearly 3,000 planets to that census. And because of Kepler, astronomers are convinced that the Milky Way contains hundreds of billions of planets, roughly one for every star, with at least 17 billion of them Earth-sized.

Those numbers boosted the case for funding NASA's next exoplanet-hunting mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which is scheduled for a 2017 launch. Whereas Kepler has fixed its gaze on distant stars, TESS will focus on nearby stars so that powerful instruments like the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be able to probe the atmospheres of planets that TESS discovers. Kepler's planet haul has TESS scientists optimistic that their modest $200-million telescope, while less sensitive than Kepler, will nonetheless uncover plenty of planets in our neighborhood, including a handful of Earth-sized worlds.

Kepler has also exposed an intriguing new class of potentially habitable planets larger than the Earth-sized realms astronomers have traditionally targeted. Kepler's database includes nearly 700 worlds that are between 25 and 100 percent larger in diameter than Earth.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Kepler Honored, Not Mourned: Even without Telescope, Scientists Will Hunt Planets
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.