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posted by martyb on Sunday July 08 2018, @07:29PM   Printer-friendly
from the patience-comes-to-those-who-wait dept.

NASA's Kepler Spacecraft Pauses Science Observations to Download Science Data

Earlier this week, NASA's Kepler team received an indication that the spacecraft fuel tank is running very low. NASA has placed the spacecraft in a hibernation-like state in preparation to download the science data collected in its latest observation campaign. Once the data has been downloaded, the expectation is to start observations for the next campaign with any remaining fuel.

[...] To bring the data home, the spacecraft must point its large antenna back to Earth and transmit the data during its allotted Deep Space Network time, which is scheduled in early August. Until then, the spacecraft will remain stable and parked in a no-fuel-use safe mode. On August 2, the team will command the spacecraft to awaken from its no-fuel-use state and maneuver the spacecraft to the correct orientation and downlink the data. If the maneuver and download are successful, the team will begin its 19th observation campaign on August 6 with the remaining fuel.

Also at The Verge and Engadget.

Related: Google Researchers Discover an 8th Planet in the Kepler-90 System
Citizen Scientists Credited for Discovery of Multi-Planet System
Kepler's K2 Mission Going Strong With Another 95 New Exoplanets Confirmed
NASA's TESS Mission Set to Launch on Wednesday, April 18

Original Submission

Related Stories

Google Researchers Discover an 8th Planet in the Kepler-90 System 17 comments

Google's research team Google AI has applied machine learning to data from NASA's Kepler space observatory, finding an 8th exoplanet orbiting Kepler-90 (2,545 ly away). The team also found a sixth exoplanet orbiting Kepler-80 (1,100 ly away):

Our solar system now is tied for most number of planets around a single star, with the recent discovery of an eighth planet circling Kepler-90, a Sun-like star 2,545 light years from Earth. The planet was discovered in data from NASA's Kepler Space Telescope.

The newly-discovered Kepler-90i – a sizzling hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days – was found using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence in which computers "learn." In this case, computers learned to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded signals from planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets.

[...] Kepler-90i wasn't the only jewel this neural network sifted out. In the Kepler-80 system, they found a sixth planet. This one, the Earth-sized Kepler-80g, and four of its neighboring planets form what is called a resonant chain – where planets are locked by their mutual gravity in a rhythmic orbital dance. The result is an extremely stable system, similar to the seven planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system.

Their research paper reporting these findings has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal. [Christopher] Shallue and [Andrew] Vanderburg plan to apply their neural network to Kepler's full set of more than 150,000 stars.

The size of Kepler-90i is estimated at 1.32 ± 0.21 Earth radii. Surface temperature is estimated at 435°C (709 K).

Kepler-80g is likely smaller at 1.13 ± 0.14 Earth radii, with a cooler surface temperature of 144°C (418 K).

The outermost known exoplanet in the Kepler-90 system, Kepler-90h, has a mass under 1.2 Jupiter masses and a temperature of around 292 K (19 °C; 66 °F), so it may be a good candidate for hosting life on a moon.

NASA will host a Reddit AMA at 3 PM EST to discuss the findings.

Also at University of Texas at Austin.

Related: Seven Earth-Sized Exoplanets, Including Three Potentially Habitable, Identified Around TRAPPIST-1

Previously: Google and NASA to Reveal Mysterious New Space Find

Original Submission

Citizen Scientists Credited for Discovery of Multi-Planet System 16 comments

Multi-planet System Found Through Crowdsourcing

A system of at least five exoplanets has been discovered by citizen scientists through a project called Exoplanet Explorers, part of the online platform Zooniverse, using data from NASA's Kepler space telescope. This is the first multi-planet system discovered entirely through crowdsourcing. A study describing the system has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

Thousands of citizen scientists got to work on Kepler data in 2017 when Exoplanet Explorers launched. It was featured on a program called Stargazing Live on the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). On the final night of the three-day program, researchers announced the discovery of a four-planet system. Since then, they have named it K2-138 and determined that it has a fifth planet -- and perhaps even a sixth, according to the new paper.

Zooniverse. Also at Caltech and SpaceRef.

The K2-138 System: A Near-resonant Chain of Five Sub-Neptune Planets Discovered by Citizen Scientists (open, DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/aa9be0) (DX) (arXiv)

Original Submission

Kepler's K2 Mission Going Strong With Another 95 New Exoplanets Confirmed 11 comments

Data from the Kepler spacecraft's extended mission has been used to confirm 95 new exoplanet discoveries:

"We started out analyzing 275 candidates of which 149 were validated as real exoplanets. In turn 95 of these planets have proved to be new discoveries," said American PhD student Andrew Mayo at the National Space Institute (DTU Space) at the Technical University of Denmark.

[...] The Kepler spacecraft was launched in 2009 to hunt for exoplanets in a single patch of sky, but in 2013 a mechanical failure crippled the telescope. However, astronomers and engineers devised a way to repurpose and save the space telescope by changing its field of view periodically. This solution paved the way for the follow up K2 mission, which is still ongoing as the spacecraft searches for exoplanet transits.

[...] One of the planets detected was orbiting a very bright star. "We validated a planet on a 10 day orbit around a star called HD 212657, which is now the brightest star found by either the Kepler or K2 missions to host a validated planet. Planets around bright stars are important because astronomers can learn a lot about them from ground-based observatories," said Mayo.

275 candidates and 149 validated planets orbiting bright stars in K2 campaigns 0-10 (open, DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/aaadff) (DX)

This work, in addition to increasing the population of validated K2 planets by more than 50% and providing new targets for follow-up observations, will also serve as a framework for validating candidates from upcoming K2 campaigns and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), expected to launch in 2018.

Original Submission

NASA's TESS Mission Set to Launch on Wednesday, April 18 6 comments

Update: SpaceX: All systems and weather are go for Falcon 9's launch of @NASA_TESS today at 6:51 p.m. EDT, or 22:51 UTC.

Update 2: SpaceX's live coverage starts at 6:36 PM EDT (22:36 UTC).

Update 3: TESS successfully separated from Falcon 9 and was deployed into a highly elliptical orbit.

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission is set to launch on April 16 at 6:32 PM ET (22:32 UTC) aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The spacecraft was developed by MIT with seed funding in Google back in 2008. The spacecraft will perform an all-sky survey using four 24° × 24° wide field-of-view cameras that can image a total of 24° × 96° (2,304 square degrees) of sky every 30 minutes (the Sun and Moon are only about 0.2 deg2 to Earth-based observers).

TESS will use a unique "P/2" 2:1 lunar resonant orbit to image stars in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The survey will image 26 observation sectors of 24° × 96° each, with some overlap at the ecliptic poles. The total survey area will be about 400 times larger than the area searched by the Kepler mission.

TESS will study about 500,000 stars, including the nearest 1,000 red dwarfs, with the goal of finding at least 3,000 new transiting exoplanet candidates. The spacecraft will study F, G, K and M type stars (spanning from F5 to M5), some of which are 30-100 times brighter than stars surveyed by the Kepler spacecraft. Many of the stars will be much closer to Earth than stars surveyed by Kepler, allowing for easier confirmation and follow-up measurements of exoplanets. 30-minute full-frame exposures will be used to search for transient events such as supernovae, star flares, and gamma-ray bursts.

Each observation sector will only be viewed for 27 days (at least in the initial phase of the mission), which will limit the exoplanets seen to those with shorter orbital periods. Potentially habitable exoplanet candidates will likely be found around red dwarfs rather than Sun-like stars. However, TESS's own orbit should remain stable for decades, which could mean that its mission will be extended to allow for a greater variety of exoplanets to be found.

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: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08 2018, @07:54PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08 2018, @07:54PM (#704311)

    Merican NADA space telescopes ain't be using Solar poweed EM Drive yet??

    Why the hell not?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08 2018, @10:17PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08 2018, @10:17PM (#704338)

      ain't be using Solar pro-weed EM Drive

      And, obviously, weed had not been legalized in the US of Aia when Kepler was launched. Silly rabbit. And more to the point, why is there not a re-fueling/repair capability for such a valuable instrument?

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Sunday July 08 2018, @11:23PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Sunday July 08 2018, @11:23PM (#704351) Journal

      This is what the previous reporting on that [] looked like:

      'Impossible' EmDrive Space Thruster May Really Be Impossible []

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 09 2018, @08:08PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 09 2018, @08:08PM (#704704)

        Which was sad on the one hand, as we can't have an EM drive, but on the other, it also meant that the EM drive didn't require us to re-write physics again.