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.