Artist’s rendering of NASA’s
Kepler space telescope in the second phase of its life. Image courtesy of NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle
Kepler space telescope, once thought “beyond
has found a planet two and a half times the size of Earth elsewhere in the Milky Way, the space agency
The newly discovered “super-Earth,” dubbed HIP 116454b, is nearly 20,000 miles wide and weighs 12 times as
much as our home planet, researchers said in a statement.
Circling a star that’s smaller and cooler than the Sun, the planet orbits its star once every 9.1 days and is 180
light-years from Earth. The planet is either three-fourths water or a gaseous planet like Neptune, researchers added.
“Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Kepler has been reborn and is continuing to make discoveries,” said
lead researcher Andrew Vanderburg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “Even better, the planet it found
is ripe for follow-up studies.”
NASA detected the planet after analyzing data Kepler collected over a 9-day period in February, months after the agency
said it was investigating a way to fix
a mechanical failure that had kept the planet-hunting spacecraft offline since May 2013. Nearly a year later, NASA gave
Kepler a new, two-year mission, called
“K2,” to continue its search beyond our solar system for potentially habitable planets.
Kepler’s data helps NASA scientists — who called the telescope’s recent discovery a “comeback”
— determine the compositions of these far-flung planets.
“The Kepler mission showed us that planets larger in size than Earth and smaller than Neptune are common in the galaxy,
yet they are absent in our solar system,” said NASA scientist Steve Howell, in a statement. “K2 is uniquely positioned
to dramatically refine our understanding of these alien worlds and further define the boundary between rocky worlds like Earth
and ice giants like Neptune.”
Launched in March 2009, the $600 million space craft has confirmed the existence of 996
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keeps going, finds new ‘super-Earth’ appeared first on PBS