Like cosmic ballet dancers, the stars of the Pleiades cluster are spinning, but all at different speeds. By watching these stellar dancers, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has helped amass the most complete catalogue of rotation periods for stars in a cluster. This information can provide insight into where and how planets form around these stars, and how such stars evolve.
More than 100 confirmed exoplanets — the biggest haul of worlds uncovered by the stabilised and repurposed Kepler space telescope in its K2 mission — is reported by an international science team led by the University of Arizona. Excitingly, the new population includes many worlds that could be rocky and cool enough to potentially support life.
Astrophysicists from Germany and America have for the first time measured the rotation periods of stars in a cluster nearly as old as the Sun. It turns out that these stars spin once in about twenty-six days — just like our Sun. This discovery significantly strengthens what is known as the solar-stellar connection, a fundamental principle that guides much of modern solar and stellar astrophysics.
NASA’s Kepler planet-hunter spacecraft remains stable as the process of returning it to science continues. The cause of the anomaly, first reported on 8 April, remains under investigation. Charlie Sobeck, Kepler and K2 mission manager at NASA’s Ames Research Center, explains the steps taken by mission operations engineers to resume the K2 mission.
Astronomers have discovered the tenth known ‘transiting circumbinary’ planet, which orbits two stars. Like the fictional planet “Tatooine” from Star Wars, this planet has two suns in its sky. Known as Kepler-453 b, the new planet is a gas-giant six times the diameter of Earth and lies in the habitable zone of its host pair of stars.