Kepler’s surprise: Planet hunter also found supernovas

Now-defunct telescope captured five stellar explosions as they happened

By Andrew Grant, 15:52 PM January 14, 2014

OXON HILL, Md. — NASA’s premier planet-hunting telescope had an unexpected talent: spotting the cataclysmic demise of giant stars. The Kepler space telescope detected at least five supernovas, giving astronomers a rare look at these calamitous explosions from the start.

From May 2009 until May 2013, when a critical piece of equipment failed (SN: 9/21/13, p. 18), the Kepler telescope found at least 3,500 likely planets orbiting other stars. Kepler’s planet-hunting prowess stemmed from doing one...

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