Friday, April 6, 2012

Reason #170: Yet More Kepler

While it feels to me like Kepler's exoplanet-discovery mission has just been getting started, its initial funding is scheduled to run out in November of this year. But after conducting a review of all its active operations, NASA has decided to continue its funding clear through to the end of 2016. Not too surprising, I would like to think, since Kepler only costs $20 million per year, or less than a third of one Super Hornet fighter jet.

Not only does more time mean more planets will be found overall, but the quality and variety of candidates will increase, because for something to even be classified as a potential exoplanet (of which it has cataloged about twenty-three hundred so far), it has to be observed passing in front of its star three times. In other words, if an exact clone of Earth were out there and right in Kepler's line of sight, the mission's original purview wouldn't have had time to pin it down.

Just imagine what we might find now.

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