The number of planets we have found orbiting other stars has snowballed in recent years, thanks to discoveries by the Kepler spacecraft. Now, NASA's next missions toward understanding the Milky Way's abundant worlds are preparing for launch.
Space exploration has suffered its share of setbacks and disappointments over the decades, but few of them stung as much as the 2013 mechanical failure of the Kepler spacecraft, a space telescope designed to accomplish one of the most exciting explorations of space ever: the search for potentially Earth-like planets orbiting other stars.
How big can an Earth-like planet be? Astronomers thought they had a pretty good handle on this question but have just been given a fresh example of how nature never ceases to outpace our imaginations and show us something unexpected.
NASA researchers announce they've verified 715 new planets orbiting around 305 stars.
Let's take a moment to tally a few of 2013's highlights of astronomy and space exploration. In brief, it was a very good year on a number of fronts.
A NASA scientist sums it up: “If we ever get star travel, we’ll probably see a lot of traffic jams.”
One of NASA’s most popular and successful missions has hit a disabling technical snag. The Kepler space telescope was launched on a search to disprove the notion that Earth is unique in the universe. Over four years, it found more than 100 planets orbiting distant stars.