NASA’s prolific planet hunter brought back to life by balancing on sunlight
Wendy Stenzel/Kepler mission/NASA
Reports of Kepler’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
NASA’s flagship planet hunter, which netted nearly 1,000 confirmed exoplanets during its four-year mission, is getting a second chance at life with a little help from the sun. The space agency has given the new mission, dubbed K2, the go-ahead to start observations at the end of May.
Kepler was knocked out of commission last spring when the second of its four reaction wheels stopped working (SN Online: 5/15/13). The reaction wheels keep the telescope pointed in the right direction; any spacecraft needs at least three. Once Kepler was down to two wheels, it could no longer sufficiently steady itself to search for other solar systems.