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  1. NASA’s Planet-Hunting Kepler Spacecraft Damaged, in Safe Mode, But Not “Down and Out”

    NASA had a press conference earlier today where they announced that the planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has gone into safe mode. It doesn't look great for the mission at the moment, because when engineers brought the craft back to normal mode they found one of its reaction wheels is dead. It's the second of the craft's four wheels to die, which is bad because it needs a minimum of three.

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  2. NASA’s Kepler Mission Finds Three New Planets in the Habitable Zone

    Thanks to NASA's Kepler mission, we now know about three new super-Earth-sized planets that fall in the "Goldilocks" zone of a star's orbit,where the surface temperature of a planet could hold liquid water. The planets are spread over two different systems, Kepler-62 and Kepler-69, which each have multiple planets, but the ones you should be excited about are Kepler-62e, 62f, and 69c.

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  3. New NASA Planet Hunter TESS Searches Entire Sky, Puts Kepler To Shame

    We've already spotted more than 800 exoplanets beyond our Solar System, and more than a hundred of these were identified by NASA's Kepler mission in the four years since its launch merely by observing one small swath of sky. But now NASA has its sights on even more worlds with the newly green-lit Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a spacecraft set to launch in 2017. Hit the jump to find out what makes this one so different.

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  4. Small World: NASA Kepler Mission Finds Smallest Exoplanet Yet

    What can we say, folks -- some days, all the cool news comes from space, and this is one of those days. On a day that has already brought us revelations about nearby stars and details of the latest mission to Mars, NASA's Kepler mission to seek out habitable exoplanets announced that it has turned up it's smallest find yet -- Kepler-37b, a teeny, tiny exoplanet about 210 light years away that is just a little bit larger than our own Moon.

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  5. Planet Hunter Volunteers Discover 15 Potentially Habitable Planets, Still No Way to Get There

    Planet Hunters is a project that enlists the help of "citizen scientists" to help sort through the extensive data provided by NASA's Kepler mission. 15 new planets have been discovered by Planet Hunters that fall into the habitable, or "Goldilocks" zone, where the planet is at the right distance from a star to have liquid water. The discovery of the planets could mean there are many more of these worlds than initially thought, which is good news for anyone desperate to get off this planet just as soon as possible.

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  6. Kepler Telescope Discovers 41 New Exoplanets

    With Curiosity getting so much attention lately, it 's easy to forget that NASA has just oodles of other cool stuff going on right now. Yes, most of it does not involve skycrane drops or lasers or HD pictures of the surface of an alien world, but it is still cool, you guys! Case in point: NASA's Kepler mission announced today that is has found 41 new exoplanets in 20 star systems. The results are preliminary and some are still being peer-reviewed to ensure that they are planets and not blips in the data or just alien civilizations messing with us. If they pan out, though -- and there's every reason to believe most of them will -- it will raise the number of planets discovered by the Kepler mission by nearly 50%, to  a grand total of 116 planets.

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  7. Planet Hunting Kepler Probe’s Mission Extended Through 2016

    If there's one thing space nerds love to complain about, it's the state of the NASA budget. Thankfully saved from the chopping block is the Kepler mission, which since 2009 has been searching the skies for exoplanets with remarkable success. What may surprise some is that Kepler was meant to be a 3.5 year mission to seek out strange new worlds. Thankfully, the probe's hunt for alien worlds has now been extended until 2016.

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  8. NASA Discovers First Earth-Sized Planets Out of Our Solar System, Unfortunately Not in Habitable Zone

    NASA's Kepler has found the first earth-sized planets orbiting a star outside of our solar system. Unfortunately for extraterrestrial life enthusiasts, the planets are too close to the star, so they are not in the star's habitable zone. Dubbed Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, the planets are in located a distance from the star that liquid water could not exist on their respective surfaces, however, the planets set a record for being the smallest exoplanets found orbiting a star similar to our sun.

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  9. NASA's Kepler Probe Confirms Its First Ever Exoplanet Within a Star's Habitable Zone

    According to NASA, their exoplanet-spotting Kepler probe has discovered its first ever exoplanet that orbits a star in the so-called "habitable zone." This zone is a reference to the distance at which the planet orbits its parent star, and means that it is warm enough for liquid water to exist on the planet's surface. Tantalizingly, the planet appears to be comparable in size to the Earth, and the sun is similar to our own star.

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  10. NASA’s Kepler Discovers Six-Planet Solar System

    NASA's Kepler spacecraft has uncovered the largest known collection of Earth-like planets orbiting a star similar to the Sun outside of our own solar system. The star, named in true astronomer fashion as Kepler-11, is located a brisk 2,000 light years away and contains six tightly-packed planets, five of which are located in the "habitable zone" -- a region where liquid water (and undoubtedly Aliens) could exist. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden:
    "In one generation we have gone from extraterrestrial planets being a mainstay of science fiction, to the present, where Kepler has helped turn science fiction into today's reality. These discoveries underscore the importance of NASA's science missions, which consistently increase understanding of our place in the cosmos."
    Kepler is able to determine the mass and distance of a planet by observing minute changes in brightness as it passes across a star. To verify that a planet candidate is up to the task of being a bona fide planet, Kepler must observe three full transits. If a planet is similar to Earth, it will therefore take three years to confirm its status. The planets hovering around Kepler-11 have a much quicker orbital period, ranging from 10 to 47 days, (except for the asocial Kepler-11g, which takes a leisurely 118 days to orbit) so their elite status has been confirmed. NASA's Deep Field image uncovered roughly one gazillion new galaxies by focusing on a seemingly insignificant point in space. Similarly, Kepler's field of view only covers one four-hundredths of the sky -- and its discoveries only accounts for objects that reside inside the Milky Way. Over 1,200 planet candidates have been found to date by Kepler, including a total of 59 candidates located in a habitable zone (up from a paltry zero just two years ago). NASA plans to validate the existence of additional exoplanets using ground-based observatories down here on Terra, and will continue to use Kepler for future planet scouting missions. (via NASA)

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