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Kepler Telescope Begins its 2nd Act With a Nice Haul of Exoplanets


In May 2013, the Kepler telescope was hobbled by the loss of two stabilizing wheels and all of a sudden its future became a bit cloudier.

According to Gizmodo, Kepler entered its second phase about a year later, a mission known as K2. No longer able to focus on one portion of deep space for extended periods of time, the telescope began scanning areas closer to home.

Kepler has found thousands of exoplanets, both confirmed and unconfirmed, that resemble Earth in its size and orbit of its host star. In its first year, K2 apparently picked up right where the first mission ended, identifying more than 200 such exoplanets.

Astronomers presented these findings at the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Because the K2 mission did not entail looking out into deep space, the 234 newly identified earthlike planets are all relatively close to Earth, Gizmodo noted.

"We're basically finding the same kinds of planets," Andrew Vanderburg, of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics, said at the meeting. "We've found 234 candidates in the first year of data, and there's more to come."

The Kepler telescope identified in July an exoplanet a NASA scientist called Earth's "older, bigger cousin," so while the telescope's first mission set a high bar, K2 seems to be off to the best start it could hope for.

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