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Kepler telescope readies for new mission after communications scare

Planet hunter will now point to galactic center to look for new worlds

12:56pm, April 12, 2016
illustration of Kepler space telescope

NEW MISSION  NASA’s Kepler telescope (illustrated) has recovered from an emergency and is ready to start looking for planets toward the center of the galaxy (background). The gray regions mark spots on the sky of past and upcoming observing campaigns.

The Kepler space telescope, NASA’s premier planet hunter, is about to embark on a hunt for planets toward the center of the galaxy. But on April 7, just hours before its new mission was set to begin, the observatory gave astronomers a scare by temporarily hunkering down in an emergency state that prevented mission controllers from communicating with the spacecraft. As of April 11, though, Kepler was talking to Earth again, and engineers are getting the telescope prepped for its new quest.

“A cause has not been determined; that will take time,” says NASA spokesperson Michelle Johnson. “The priority is returning the spacecraft to science mode.”

Kepler has previously had problems with its reaction wheels, which are necessary for keeping the spacecraft pointed in the right direction. After two of

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