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Call It A Comeback! NASA's Planet Hunting Kepler Telescope Revived! Sees first world

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posted on Feb, 6 2014 @ 09:10 PM
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NASA's revived exoplanet-hunter sees its first world


It's alive! After suffering a critical injury last year, NASA's Kepler space telescope has just observed an exoplanet for the first time in months. The Jupiter-sized world is not a new discovery – it was found by another telescope – but spotting it again with Kepler is solid evidence that, following a few modifications, the famed planet-hunter is ready to get back to work.

Launched in 2009, Kepler was designed to see planetary transits – the tiny dips in starlight when a planet passes in front of its star, from Earth's perspective. Over four years the mission collected almost 250 confirmed planets and thousands more candidates, boosting our confidence that the galaxy is brimming with alien worlds.

But observations ground to a halt last year, when mechanical failures killed Kepler's precision steering system and ruined its ability to hold steady enough to see transits. At least, until now. At a meeting in November last year, the Kepler team announced the K2 mission, which would use the radiation pressure from sunlight to hold the craft steady for up to 75 days at a time.

During a test run in January, the K2 team nabbed their first planet: a previously identified gas giant called WASP-28b. Seeing a clear signal is verification that the Kepler's new mission concept will work as planned.

"It's a lovely planet transit. If you were in this field you'd look at this and right away say, 'Oh, of course it's a planet!'" says project scientist Steve Howell. "It's very exciting."


More at the link I posted above the story.

BTW: You can join in the search for planets with Kepler yourself. Watch the video below:

edit on 6-2-2014 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)




posted on Feb, 6 2014 @ 09:21 PM
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PICS or it didn't happen



posted on Feb, 6 2014 @ 09:35 PM
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w8tn4it
PICS or it didn't happen


As you wish




That lightcurve is a little noisey but that is due to the cadence being only a 1 minute cadence rather than the normal 30 minute cadence they run. It's also just one transit observation rather than the 3 they usually use and average.

The first K2 observation of a transiting exoplanet


We have some data on the ground and the good news is that we can detect planets! We have observed our first exoplanet transit, WASP-28b – A previously known hot Jupiter type planet. I’ve posted an image of the transit, it looks beautiful. The noise may seem a little high but this is because the data were taken at 1-min cadence rather than our more usual 30-min cadence. There is also only one transit so we don’t benefit from overlaying multiple transits.

I’ve also being doing some work on estimating what sizes of planet we are going to be sensitive to. It looks we are going to be able to find Earth-sized planets orbiting relatively bright G and K type stars and well as around fainter M-dwarfs. This is great because these are the stars we are going to be able to get follow-up ground based observations of. I can’t wait to get some more data on the ground.


This is phenomenal news, sure to boost the number of habitable planet candidates around Sunlike (G and K) stars.



posted on Feb, 6 2014 @ 09:42 PM
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w8tn4it
PICS or it didn't happen


There's a link with more information:

url=http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24857-nasas-revived-exoplanethunter-sees-its-first-world.html]http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24857-na sas-revived-exoplanethunter-sees-its-first-world.html[/url]

There are no actual pictures however. Maybe because it's still a pretty recent discovery.



posted on Feb, 6 2014 @ 09:45 PM
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reply to post by JadeStar
 


Great news, thanks for bringing it to us. I remember years ago when I watched, on the internet, the launch of Kepler, hoping for that rocket not to malfunction. Now, after its first demise, it has risen again, to find new worlds and to give this world further glimpses of others.



posted on Feb, 6 2014 @ 09:56 PM
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Aleister
reply to post by JadeStar
 


Great news, thanks for bringing it to us. I remember years ago when I watched, on the internet, the launch of Kepler, hoping for that rocket not to malfunction. Now, after its first demise, it has risen again, to find new worlds and to give this world further glimpses of others.



I was doing the exact same thing. I remember being very nervous during the stage separations and mumbling something like (please don't explode, please stay on course).


After the reaction wheel failure I was really hoping they'd find a way to do useful exoplanet related science with it since the optics were fine and the electronics were perfect. It would have been a shame if its extended mission had to be cut short so soon after it began.

The nice thing now is that instead of staring at just that one star field between Lyra and Cygnus it will look at 4 different fields of stars every year. Some of these fields of stars may contain much closer stars than the ones in the original Kepler star field, in fact that blog post sort of hints at it when he referenced follow ups from ground based telescopes.
edit on 6-2-2014 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)
edit on 6-2-2014 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 6 2014 @ 10:19 PM
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reply to post by JadeStar
 


I really wish that nations would put up the money so there would be dozens of these missions up at one time and not just one or two. And dozens of Rovers on various planets and moons. But, like I said on another thread, if wishes were horses we'd all be playing polo.

The one I know I'll be watching and hoping that everything goes right will be when the James Webb is launched. That will be quite the day. And again, with the wish thing, why couldn't there be a half-dozen James Webb-type telescopes all sent up around the same time? Money. The habitual "one at a time" scheduling of missions has really put limits on where we could be, and where we can go and explore (both with humans and with instruments), but we have to take what's given. Yay for Kepler, and for the people that came up with its new use and pushed for it to be worked out and accomplished.



posted on Feb, 6 2014 @ 10:37 PM
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Aleister
reply to post by JadeStar
 


I really wish that nations would put up the money so there would be dozens of these missions up at one time and not just one or two.


Agreed.

There is the European version of Kepler caller COROT which is sort of similar, was launched before Kepler, but not as prolific in its discoveries for a number of reasons.

There are also two new planet transit spotting missions scheduled for launch in 2017. One by NASA called TESS and one by the ESA called PLATO.

In this case PLATO will be a slightly better version of TESS and it will also give special attention to nearby stars.

I talked about both these and the James Webb Space Telescope's exoplanet mission in another thread here.



And dozens of Rovers on various planets and moons. But, like I said on another thread, if wishes were horses we'd all be playing polo.


Pretty much. This is one reason I hope China and India continue their push. The more nations willing to do these things the more we will discover and the less likely we (as in Planet Earth) lose a capability to make certain discoveries due to one spacecraft's malfuction.



The one I know I'll be watching and hoping that everything goes right will be when the James Webb is launched. That will be quite the day. And again, with the wish thing, why couldn't there be a half-dozen James Webb-type telescopes all sent up around the same time? Money.


Pretty much. The JWST's almost $9 billion dollar price tag is high enough that I don't know how many nations would have committed to duplicating or exceeding its capability.



The habitual "one at a time" scheduling of missions has really put limits on where we could be, and where we can go and explore (both with humans and with instruments), but we have to take what's given. Yay for Kepler, and for the people that came up with its new use and pushed for it to be worked out and accomplished.


Yes. It's amazing that we launched two Pioneer and two Voyager spacecraft with nearly identical missions close together. Ah the 1970s.....I guess there was still more interest then due to the heady days of Apollo.

Then again, we did send the two Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) to Mars on sepaparate launches in the 1990s. I remember watching those launch when i was a kid.
edit on 6-2-2014 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 7 2014 @ 12:29 AM
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Kepler also found this weird planet:


Imagine living on a planet with seasons so erratic you would hardly know what to wear — Bermuda shorts or a heavy overcoat. That’s the situation on a weird wobbly world found by NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.

The planet, designated Kepler-413b, is located 2,300 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. It circles a close pair of orange and red dwarf stars every 66 days.

But what makes this planet unusual is that it wobbles, or precesses, wildly on its spin axis, much like a child’s top. The tilt of the spin axis of the planet can vary by as much as 30° over 11 years, leading to the rapid and erratic changes in seasons. Contrast this to Earth’s rotational precession: 23.5° over 26,000 years. The fact that this far-off planet is precessing on a human timescale is simply amazing.
www.astronomy.com...


Its one of strangest Worlds ever found. It wobbles so heavily that the seasons are completely messed up. Its orbit can vary 30 degrees in 11 year cycles.




posted on Feb, 7 2014 @ 09:29 AM
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Is anyone else as amazed as I am at the ingenuity displayed by the engineers at getting Kepler working again without its third reaction wheel?

Without that reaction wheel, Kepler could not orient itself properly (as designed) due to the force of the sun's photons pushing on the spacecraft and knocking it out of the required orientation for exoplanet searching. However, engineers on the Kepler team and Ball Aerospace (the prime contractor for the Kepler Mission) came up with an ingenious way of using that same photon pressure from the sun -- the same pressure that was throwing Kepler off balance without the reaction wheel -- to balance that orientation, basically using that solar pressure to mimic the effect of the third reaction wheel.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but it works! That sort of out-of-the-box engineering always impresses me.


However, Kepler mission and Ball Aerospace engineers have developed an innovative way of recovering pointing stability by maneuvering the spacecraft so that the solar pressure is evenly distributed across the surfaces of the spacecraft.

To achieve this level of stability, the orientation of the spacecraft must be nearly parallel to its orbital path around the sun, which is slightly offset from the ecliptic, the orbital plane of Earth. The ecliptic plane defines the band of sky in which lie the constellations of the zodiac.

This technique of using the sun as the 'third wheel' to control pointing is currently being tested on the spacecraft and early results are already coming in...
Source:
A Sunny Outlook for NASA Kepler's Second Light


Here's an interesting (and barely relevant) fun fact: "Ball Aerospace" (the prime contractor for the Kepler mission and other past NASA missions) is part of the same parent corporation that also makes the Ball glass mason jars used for canning.

Spacecraft and mason jars -- now that's what I call company diversification.


edit on 2/7/2014 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 7 2014 @ 10:18 AM
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Soylent Green Is People
Is anyone else as amazed as I am at the ingenuity displayed by the engineers at getting Kepler working again without its third reaction wheel?


I am!

I think it may be lost on a lot of people though.

When I describe it I say they turned part of Kepler into a sort of Solar Sail which they use in the place of the 3rd reaction wheel.

If they said something like "We're balancing Kepler on sunbeams like a surfer balances on a waves." that would be sure to impress more people.

Its a remarkable feat, and very reminiscent of the Apollo 13 "Never Say Die" attitude many on ATS think the space program lacked nowadays.

The amazing thing is that we may actually get MORE science out of K2 (since it will observer 4 different star fields) than we would have got simply from the standard Kepler Extended Mission which would have seen it continue staring at the field between Cygnus and Lyra.



posted on Feb, 7 2014 @ 11:20 AM
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Had no idea at that distance and that surface area the light had enough power to apply pressure.

Good they managed to get it working again as it my favorite little telescope.



posted on Feb, 7 2014 @ 11:36 AM
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reply to post by JadeStar
 


On this post you describe the wonderment, ingenuity, and situation almost perfectly. It goes to show what happens when you have a group of geniuses concentrating on one problem and coming up with solutions that are either stand-alone workable or are partially thrown into a group discussion and others add to the final fix. And also goes to show how people like yourself love to share that information with a wider audience.

Is there any estimate about how long Kepler will keep operating in this new state (or was in mentioned earlier and I missed it)? Thanks again!



posted on Feb, 7 2014 @ 11:47 AM
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You would think they would make a robotic space tug that can go out bring these things back to IT'S for repair and upgrades instead of just letting them die. Gota be cheaper than launching replacement hardware all the time.



posted on Feb, 7 2014 @ 12:04 PM
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Xeven
You would think they would make a robotic space tug that can go out bring these things back to IT'S for repair and upgrades instead of just letting them die. Gota be cheaper than launching replacement hardware all the time.


That would require a lot of fuel (getting the tug out there, bringing it back, then sending it back out to the telescope's orbital home). Because fuel is so heavy (the number one weight item), most spacecraft do not have supplies of fuel to go zipping around wherever it wants to go. A spacecraft can use 99%+ of its total lifetime of fuel in the 10 minutes or so of the launching process, and that launching process is specifically designed to put the spacecraft where it needs to go while using up almost all of its fuel (i.e., the launch trajectory gets it to where it needs to be using the minimal amount of fuel possible).

Now, if we can perfect the use of other types of rocket engines other than chemical-propulsion, such as ion drives (which can provide thrust for [potentially] years rather than minutes), then maybe we can have a workable space tug.



posted on Feb, 7 2014 @ 12:18 PM
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Xeven
You would think they would make a robotic space tug that can go out bring these things back to IT'S for repair and upgrades instead of just letting them die. Gota be cheaper than launching replacement hardware all the time.


Unlike what the film gravity shows, all the space stations, satlitles and space telescopes are not all next to each other. There are huge distances between them not to mention some are in diffrent orbits. Changeing orbital inclinations is pretty fuel intensive in itself.
edit on 7-2-2014 by crazyewok because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 8 2014 @ 05:16 PM
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crazyewok

Xeven
You would think they would make a robotic space tug that can go out bring these things back to IT'S for repair and upgrades instead of just letting them die. Gota be cheaper than launching replacement hardware all the time.


Unlike what the film "Trying to grab stuff while being disoriented" shows, all the space stations, satlitles and space telescopes are not all next to each other. There are huge distances between them not to mention some are in diffrent orbits. Changeing orbital inclinations is pretty fuel intensive in itself.
edit on 7-2-2014 by crazyewok because: (no reason given)


Crazyewok, I fixed the title of the movie for you.
edit on 8-2-2014 by SullivanBlack because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 13 2014 @ 03:54 AM
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For those interested here are the current and proposed star fields for Kepler's K2 mission:






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