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Kepler Can Still Hunt For Earth-Sized Exoplanets, Researchers Suggest

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Kepler spacecraft may not be finished with its planet-hunting yet. Even though two of its four reaction wheels are no longer working, it may still be able to search for potentially-habitable exoplanets around smaller stars. In fact, Kepler might actually open up a whole new territory of exoplanet exploration looking for Earth-sized worlds orbiting white dwarfs.

An international team of scientists are suggesting that NASA’s Kepler spacecraft should turn its gaze toward dim white dwarfs, instead of the brighter main-sequence stars it was observing. Because Kepler’s precision has been greatly reduced by the failure of the second reaction wheel, it cannot accurately aim at large stars for the long periods of time required to identify the minute dips in brightness caused by the silhouetted specks of passing planets. But since white dwarfs — the dim remains of stars like our Sun — are much smaller, any eclipsing exoplanets would make a much more pronounced effect on their apparent luminosity.

Read more on the Universe Today website. 


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