Kepler Space Telescope Current Affairs

Scientists discover 100 new exoplanets using K2 mission data

Scientists have confirmed discovery of nearly 100 new exoplanets outside our solar system based on data from second mission of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope (K2 mission) released in 2014. With this total number of exoplanets found using NASA’s K2 mission has reached almost 300.

Key Facts

The discovery had started out by analysing 275 candidates of which 149 were validated as real exoplanets. In turn, 95 of these planets have proved to be new discoveries. One of planets detected was orbiting a very bright star called HD 212657 with 10-day orbit period. HD 212657, is now the brightest star found by either the Kepler or K2 missions to host validated planet.


Exoplanets are very exciting field of space science. This discovery will help astronomers to develop much better picture of nature of exoplanets which in turn will allow us to place our own solar system into galactic context. Discovery of planets around bright stars will help astronomers to learn about them from ground-based observatories.

Kepler Mission

NASA had launched Kepler spacecraft in 2009 to hunt for exoplanets in single patch of sky. The spacecraft had crippled the telescope in 2013 due to mechanical failure. However, by changing its field of view periodically, astronomers and engineers had then devised way to repurpose and save the space telescope which had paved way for K2 mission. The telescope hunts exoplanet transits by registering dips in light caused by shadow after it crosses in front of its host star.


It is a planet that does not orbit Sun and instead orbits different star, stellar remnant, or brown dwarf. It is also termed as extrasolar planet. The first such planet orbiting star similar to our own Sun was detected only in 1995. Today some 3,600 exoplanets have been found, ranging from rocky Earth-sized planets to large gas giants like Jupiter.


Kepler-90i: Eighth planet in Kepler-90 solar system discovered

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has discovered eighth planet circling Kepler-90, a Sun-like star which is 2545 light-years far from Earth. It was dubbed as Kepler-90i.

The eight planet was discovered by Researchers Christopher Shallue and Andrew Vanderburg by applying Google’s machine-learning technology to data collected by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.

Machine learning: It is an approach towards artificial intelligence (AI). In this case of planetary exploration, machine-learning approach was based on networks of neurons that populate human brain. The computers have learned to identify planets by finding instances of light readings recorded in Kepler data where telescope recorded signals from exoplanets, planets beyond our solar system. . The light readings were tiny changes in brightness captured when a planet passes in front of a star.

Key Facts

With eight planets, Kepler-90 system equals our own solar system in terms of number of planets orbiting single star. Astronomers are yet to detect a system with more than eight planets. Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system.

Kepler-90i is outermost and eighth planet in Kepler-90h system. It is roughly the same distance from its star as Earth is from Sun. It orbits its star once every 14.4 days. It is around 30% larger than Earth. It is thought to have an average surface temperature of 425 degrees Celsius.