NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope Discovers Alien ‘Super Earth’ 180 Light-Years Away

kepler k2

Call it the comeback of the year.

Last year, equipment failure caused NASA to deem its $600-million Kepler space telescope irreparable. But since then, astronomers and engineers devised an ingenious way to repurpose Kepler, whose mission has been to scour the cosmos in search of Earthlike planets.

And now, the planet-hunting probe not only has been reborn, but also has discovered a massive exoplanet some 180 light-years away.

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Artist’s rendering of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft hunting for planets in its second mission, K2.

The planet, HIP 116454b, is a “super Earth” with a diameter 2.5 times the diameter of Earth. It orbits a star a little cooler and smaller than our sun, located in the Pisces constellation. The planet is too close to its star to support life as we know it, according to NASA.

Super Earths are in a class of planets that don’t exist in our solar system, and HIP 116454b’s average density suggests that it is either a watery world (three-fourths water and one-fourth rock) or a planet with a gaseous atmosphere, like a mini-Neptune.

“The Kepler mission showed us that planets larger in size than Earth and smaller than —> Read More Here

Exploring Venus By Airship: Cool Concept, But Certainly Not New

An airship from the far-out High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC) mission concept deploys above the planet in this artist's conception. Credit: NASA Langley Research Center/YouTube (screenshot)

An airship from the far-out High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC) mission concept deploys above the planet in this artist’s conception. Credit: NASA Langley Research Center/YouTube (screenshot)

Venus presents a special challenge to space explorers. Yes, there is a surface but also, it has a tendency to crush spacecraft fairly quickly. Short of building a submarine-rated surface explorer, maybe there’s a better way to look at the hothouse planet? A newly released NASA concept making the rounds suggests using airships. Yes, airships with people in them.

But as you will see below, balloons and airships have been discussed extensively in the past decade by NASA and the Europeans as the best way of exploring Venus without needing to touch its hellish surface.

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Read the rest of Exploring Venus By Airship: Cool Concept, But Certainly Not New (1,354 words)


© Elizabeth Howell for Universe Today, 2014. |
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