Kepler's new mission in search of exoplanets

Kepler's new mission in search of exoplanets

The Kepler spaceship - planet hunter "works very well", despite changes in its working methods that are associated with problems with mechanics, says the lead author of the new study.

During the K2 mission, Kepler found 234 potential candidates in the first year of work. This goes beyond the expectations of the community, since Kepler cannot work as before because of problems with the work of the flywheels.

“The main reason for writing this letter is that there are too many planets for our research,” Andrew Vandenburg wrote in an e-mail. "We need the help of other astronomers to explore all these fascinating planets. So our letter is a kind of invitation to others to take part in research."

Until 2013, Kepler was being mastered at the indicated point, observing on exoplanets passing in front of the parent star. This mission seemed to succeed, but two of Kepler’s four flywheels failed, most likely due to wear. A spacecraft needs at least three working flywheels to stabilize the situation in space. NASA, however, proposed a new K2 mission. Simply put, Kepler is currently using solar pressure to stay in a stable position. But he must change his position so that the Sun is in his appearance.

"It turns out that Kepler works almost as before, for bright stars, as he worked before the malfunction," wrote Vandenburg. "It’s not that it was expected before mechanical damage in 2013. Even the most optimistic K2 performance predictions weren’t like this."

While Kepler does not find many planets, Vandenburg notices that the ship does not observe a large number of stars. But the stars studied in the new mission are brighter (easier to find) than in the previous mission. Bright stars are easier to observe, which gives advantages for confirming if the observed planets really exist.

Among other objects of study, Vandenburg monitors the WASP-47 system, in which the two gas planets of the giant rotate very close to the parent star. The unprecedented “hot Jupiter” can help astronomers understand how large planets can be so close to the parent star, as this is definitely a case unlike our Solar System. Another example is the WD 1145 + 017 - a white dwarf that can destroy a nearby planet with its gravity. "There are other stars with planets that we also observe, and we hope to get more information in the future," Vandenburg added. "Some particularly notable studies are aimed at studying the masses and radii of these planets. These data allow us to find out the composition of the planet - are they made of stones and rocks like the Earth or gas, like Neptune and Jupiter? For some very interesting planets, we could spend research on which gases are present on this planet. "

New research is presented in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement and is available in a pre-print version on Arxiv.

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