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Kepler Finds First Exo-Planet, a “Super Earth”


In 2013, the Kepler telescope had to stop planet hunting due to the failure of two reaction wheels.  But that doesn’t mean the telescope is completely out of commission.   In fact, using a new technique that takes advantage of the solar wind, the Kepler telescope just discovered its first planet,  a planet that could be similar to Earth but over twice the size.

This new discovery, named HIP 116454b, is theorized to be a water based planet with a possible rock core.  Its atmosphere is as thick as Neptune’s and has a mass twelve times that of the Earth.  It orbits its dwarf star very quickly, once every 9.1 days, and is about 180 light years away.

Andrew Vanderburg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says, “like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Kepler has been reborn and is continuing to make discoveries. Even better, the planet it found is ripe for follow-up studies.”

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