Kepler gets mission extension in its search for Earth-like worlds

Timeline depicting major milestones during the Kepler mission so far.
Credit: NASA Ames Research Center / W. Stenzel

To say that the Kepler mission has been successful so far would be a major understatement – with 2,321 exoplanet candidates and 105 confirmed exoplanets to date, Kepler has revolutioned our understanding of planetary systems around other stars. Not all that long ago it wasn’t even known if any planets existed outside our solar system, and now they are being discovered on a regular basis.

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Tatooine times two: Kepler space telescope finds a planet with four suns

Artist’s concepton of PH1 orbiting the two closest binary stars, with the second pair of stars farther out. Credit: Haven Giguere / Yale

Until recently, astronomers only knew about exoplanets which, like those in our own solar system, orbited a single star. Then, the first one was discovered which orbits two stars, much like Tatooine in the Star Wars films. Since then, other similar planets have been found, indicating that such circumbinary planets (those which orbit double stars) may be fairly common.

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