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posted by mattie_p on Thursday February 27 2014, @02:31PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the I-bet-that's-all-of-them-now dept.

kef writes:

"NASA's Kepler mission has doubled the number of known planets outside of our solar system. In what can only be described as a "bonanza", 715 new planets have been reported thanks to the Kepler space telescope's planet-hunting mission. Using a new method for verifying potential planets led to the volume of new discoveries from Kepler, which aims to help humans search for other worlds that may be like Earth."

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NASA Retires the Kepler Space Telescope after It Runs Out of Hydrazine 15 comments

NASA Retires Kepler Space Telescope

After nine years in deep space collecting data that indicate our sky to be filled with billions of hidden planets - more planets even than stars - NASA's Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel needed for further science operations. NASA has decided to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth. Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 planet discoveries from outside our solar system, many of which could be promising places for life.

"As NASA's first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars."

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by Snotnose on Thursday February 27 2014, @02:37PM

    by Snotnose (1623) on Thursday February 27 2014, @02:37PM (#7961)

    My understanding is Kepler has always been finding the exoplanets, but they've upgraded their planet finding software so it finds more in the available data.

    --
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    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Cactus on Thursday February 27 2014, @02:47PM

      by Cactus (32) on Thursday February 27 2014, @02:47PM (#7969) Journal

      According to the article, all these planets were detected in the first 2 years of Kepler's launch (2009-2011), and this news item is the result of whittling down the 'probably planets over there' to 'We have 715 confirmed new planets'. Kepler has been finding things out there this whole time, but it's taken this long to weed out false positives and confirm a few solar systems similar to our own.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by martyb on Thursday February 27 2014, @02:49PM

    by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 27 2014, @02:49PM (#7972) Journal

    From TFA [nasa.gov]:

    NASA's Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.

    ...

    This latest discovery brings the confirmed count of planets outside our solar system to nearly 1,700. As we continue to reach toward the stars, each discovery brings us one step closer to a more accurate understanding of our place in the galaxy.

    Launched in March 2009, Kepler is the first NASA mission to find potentially habitable Earth-size planets. Discoveries include more than 3,600 planet candidates, of which 961 have been verified as bona-fide worlds.(emphasis added)

    I'm confused. Do we now have about 1700 or is it 961 exoplanets? What's the difference between "verified", "confirmed", and "bona-fide"?

    --
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    • (Score: 4, Informative) by chebucto on Thursday February 27 2014, @02:52PM

      by chebucto (36) on Thursday February 27 2014, @02:52PM (#7975) Journal

      Perhaps 'discovery' means the Kepler team signed off on the planets, while 'verified' means that other teams have confirmed their findings.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Sir Garlon on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:04PM

      by Sir Garlon (1264) on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:04PM (#7981)

      I infer that 961 was the count before these last 715 were verified. (961+715 = 1676 ~ "nearly 1700") But yeah, author of TFA was playing fast and loose with his/her wording and that obfuscates what should otherwise be a pretty straightforward distinction.

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    • (Score: 3, Informative) by c0lo on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:50PM

      by c0lo (156) on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:50PM (#8015) Journal

      Latin "bona fide" literally means "good faith". So, in my understanding, the rest may have been verified as present but found as "male fide" (bad faith... I don't know, a synchretic [wikipedia.org] faith maybe?)

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    • (Score: 2) by combatserver on Thursday February 27 2014, @11:57PM

      by combatserver (38) on Thursday February 27 2014, @11:57PM (#8164)

      "What's the difference between "verified", "confirmed", and "bona-fide"?"

      I think it has something to with security certificates.

      --
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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:05PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:05PM (#7984)

    This drawing [wikimedia.org] of Kepler's search space remains, for me, one of the most inspiring things to come out of astronomy in the last decade. It emphasizes just how sensitive their instruments are, how far we are able to look, and how stupendously large the Milky Way is. Better than that, like a painting of a moon base from the 1960s, it makes exploring space seem like a real possibility, something that is within our species' grasp, if we just keep working at it.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by mrwizrd on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:16PM

      by mrwizrd (2299) on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:16PM (#7991)

      Oh how I wish I still had mod points. I've never seen that image before - really gives you a sense of just how tiny we are and how much we've managed to achieve in our tiny blip of an existence. Kind of makes all of our petty problems and disagreements pale into insignificance.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by Jaruzel on Thursday February 27 2014, @04:00PM

      by Jaruzel (812) on Thursday February 27 2014, @04:00PM (#8025) Homepage Journal

      Amazing image.

      I was expecting it to look like a piece of fairy cake[1] to be honest.

      -Jar

      [1]Total_Perspective_Vortex [wikipedia.org]

      --
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    • (Score: 2) by combatserver on Friday February 28 2014, @12:09AM

      by combatserver (38) on Friday February 28 2014, @12:09AM (#8169)

      "https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ be/LombergA1024.jpg"

      Interesting image.

      I gazed at it for awhile, taking in all the implications and quickly realized that it appears that our Solar system is getting flushed down a toilet-bowl of monumental...er, Galactic proportions. This worried me some until I realized that--judging by the length of the headlight beam--we have thousands of years before this happens. We will all be dead long before that happens.

      But, then, I noticed the cross-hairs aimed at us.

      --
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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Thexalon on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:08PM

    by Thexalon (636) on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:08PM (#7985)

    One bit of good news for all this is that we're starting to get a better sense of at least 1 other factor of the Drake Equation, namely the fraction of stars with planets. And the answer appears to be remarkably close to 1, which is to say that planets are not unusual at all.

    This is good news provided that any aliens (a) can't get to us easily enough for it to be worth trying, (b) are friendly, (c) are less technologically capable than us, or (d) are killed by the common cold.

    --
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    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by DeathMonkey on Thursday February 27 2014, @08:16PM

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday February 27 2014, @08:16PM (#8104) Journal

      ...the fraction of stars with planets. And the answer appears to be remarkably close to 1, which is to say that planets are not unusual at all.


       
      This plus the recent discovery of atmospheric water vapor on Tau Bootis b [extremetech.com] keeps increasing the probability that we will find life out there.

  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:10PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:10PM (#7987)

    Sorry if I'm posting this question in the wrong place...

    I like to view all comments expanded and in nested view - something I must set with every article I read. Is there some way to remember that setting for anon cowards, such as a cookie?

    • (Score: 0, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:14PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:14PM (#7990)

      I don't think so. Just make and account for the cookie; you can still post as AC.

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by dublet on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:19PM

    by dublet (2994) on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:19PM (#7992)

    It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.
    -Douglas Adams, "Restaurant at the End of the Universe"

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:58PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:58PM (#8022)

      Funny, but of course infinity minus a finite number is still infinity.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27 2014, @04:01PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27 2014, @04:01PM (#8026)

      The visible Universe is finite. It's tens of billions of light years in a single direction, but still finite. Yes, I have heard of, "The Hitchhiker's guide to the universe".

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by indou on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:34PM

    by indou (2763) on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:34PM (#8004)

    The sooner we pick several of these systems and start sending probes out, the better. Why wait?

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by melikamp on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:51PM

      by melikamp (1886) on Thursday February 27 2014, @03:51PM (#8017) Journal

      Why wait?

      Oh no, waiting is what you will be doing if you send the probes now. Better to send them later, because they will probably go much faster, either because we have more resources, or because we've discovered more physics.

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28 2014, @02:36PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28 2014, @02:36PM (#8510)

        "More physics". Excellent.

        Look over there! Some physics laying in that bush!

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Thexalon on Thursday February 27 2014, @04:24PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Thursday February 27 2014, @04:24PM (#8034)

      The sooner we pick several of these systems and start sending probes out, the better. Why wait?

      If we wait, we can take the time to develop faster probes, that's why.

      The fastest probes we've been able to make so far go at about 17 km/s, which means that they'll take over 80,000 years to get anywhere. If, 50 years from now, we can make an engine that goes 34 km/s, they'll get somewhere in half the time, and would pass that first probe within a few decades. If 1000 years from now, we've managed to create something that goes 0.1c, then both those first two probes are now completely pointless, since they'll get passed long before they're anywhere close to their destination.

      That's the problem with intersteller travel: As it currently stands, we have no good way of doing it within a reasonable amount of time.

      --
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      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Covalent on Thursday February 27 2014, @05:38PM

        by Covalent (43) on Thursday February 27 2014, @05:38PM (#8066) Journal

        This is absolutely correct. What we should be doing is investing in two things:

        1. Large, hi-resolution telescopes (probably in space) to examine these planets and give us a much better picture of what conditions are really like there.

        2. Advanced propulsion - ion drives, solar sails, nuclear propulsion, etc. Our current propulsion technology is so primitive that there is no way we could build a probe that would last long enough to actually arrive at its destination (i.e. longer than the written history of our species). But a solar sail might be fast enough to make a probe at least possible.

        2b. OK, we're going to need a way to communicate with that probe over light year distances. I'm sure there's more...

        --
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      • (Score: 1) by CowboyTeal on Friday February 28 2014, @04:20AM

        by CowboyTeal (15) on Friday February 28 2014, @04:20AM (#8262)

        I think that we're only about 500 years away from a feasible deadline for light-speed travel (if not faster). But if we can manage to do this before then, that would be nuts. In the Star Ocean series it happened around 2073 or so. So instead of aiming for 500 years down the road, let's make it happen tomorrow ;)

        Speaking of which, "warp drive" is being researched by NASA as we speak. As it turns out it's actually feasible to do so and we may have the technology to develop such a system. Who knows? Maybe warp drive engines will be made a reality in just 20 or so years for the first prototype. But at the end of the day, sending probes across the galaxy first is probably going to be ideal, at least until we can figure out a shielding mechanism.

        --
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    • (Score: 5, Informative) by isostatic on Thursday February 27 2014, @04:31PM

      by isostatic (365) on Thursday February 27 2014, @04:31PM (#8038) Journal

      OK, so there's an exoplanet around Alpha Centauri, but unlikely to harbour life as we know it. The Tau Ceti system seems a better target at 12 light years.

      At Voyager 1 speed, we could fire something out of the solar system at 17km/second. That will take about 200,000 years to get there. Obviously we can't build a probe that can last 200,000 years.

      Lets assume we want to get a probe there in 200 years, which might still be working when we get there. We'd have to fling it from our solar system at over 10,000 miles per second. 36 million miles per hour.

      The fastest manmade object ever was the Helios 1 space probe, using the Sun's gravity to accelerate it. That reached 150,000 mph. We'd have to build something that went 240 times faster than that. And somehow send it in the opposite direction.

  • (Score: 2) by keplr on Thursday February 27 2014, @06:53PM

    by keplr (2104) on Thursday February 27 2014, @06:53PM (#8079) Journal

    You're welcome.

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  • (Score: 1) by Pslytely Psycho on Friday February 28 2014, @05:31AM

    by Pslytely Psycho (1218) on Friday February 28 2014, @05:31AM (#8297)

    IANAA (I am not an astrophysicist..obviously!)
    So I have a question to pose to those of you who understand this dicipline.
    I notice many of these planets have an orbital period (listed in sidreal days, which I understand to be 23 hr 56 min 4.09 sec)that seem to be ridiculously quick.
    One example: GJ 667Cf which is second on the list (and not the shortest by a long shot) has an orbital period of 39.026 SD. I realize the star is much smaller, dimmer and has a habital zone much closer to the star itself, but, I have trouble wrapping my head around the seemingly lightning fast orbital speed. Am I just not comprehending the scale, or are some of these exoplanets just moving faster than anything in our own solar system?

    Personally, I think I just don't understand the maths here. Enlightenment awaits.....

    Link to list of exoplanets

    http://www.planetarybiology.com/exoexplorer_planet s/ [planetarybiology.com]

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