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Why NASA’s Kepler Mission Is Toast

22 Dec 2017, 15:01 UTC
Why NASA’s Kepler Mission Is Toast
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The Kepler-90 planets have a similar configuration to our solar system with small planets found orbiting close to their star, and the larger planets found farther away. However, the eighth planet discovered orbits only at the Earth-Sun distance, so we have no idea what lies beyond, including if there are smaller worlds still left to discover. Planets are shown to correct relative size, but not to correct orbital scales. Image credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Wendy Stenzel.The ‘big discovery’ is nothing of the kind. We need a new planet-finding mission to probe the next frontier.Last week, NASA dropped a bombshell that it’s Kepler mission — the greatest planet-finding mission in history — had teamed up with Google’s AI to make a groundbreaking new discovery. Speculation ran rampant as to what it might be. An Earth-like twin? A signal unlike anything else we’d ever seen? Even a hint of alien intelligence, or life beyond our Solar System? Nope. Yesterday’s big reveal was an incredibly mundane announcement: Kepler-90, a star system previously known to have seven planets, was now found to have eight. While this makes Kepler-90 the only star system known to have as many planets as our Solar System, this mundane announcement ...

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