New Role for Disabled Kepler? Finding Exotic Alien Worlds
Crippled spacecraft could unearth new planets by detecting warped starlight.
A technical failure in May left the NASA spacecraft, launched in 2009 to search for exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system, permanently crippled. But it could be repurposed to spot planets by studying the gravitationally warped light of distant stars, scientists say. (Related: "Kepler Spacecraft Disabled; 'Exciting Discoveries' Still to Come.")
"Kepler was not designed for this at all. This is a reuse, a repurposing, of Kepler," said Keith Horne, an astronomer at the University of St. Andrews in the U.K. and a co-author of a new paper outlining the alternative Kepler mission.
Horne and his colleague Andy Gould of Ohio State University say that by using a technique called gravitational microlensing, Kepler could spot cool, massive