NASA’s planet-hunting telescope broken

LOS ANGELES — NASA’s planet-hunting telescope is broken.

The Kepler spacecraft lost the second of four wheels that control the telescope’s orientation in space, NASA said Wednesday.

If engineers can’t find a fix, the failure means Kepler won’t be able to look for exoplanets — planets outside our solar system anymore.

“I wouldn’t call Kepler down-and-out just yet,” said NASA sciences chief John Grunsfeld.

Kepler was launched in 2009 in search of Earth-like planets. So far, it has confirmed 132 planets and spotted more than 2,700 potential ones.

While ground telescopes can hunt for exoplanets, Kepler is much more advanced.

Deputy project manager Charles Sobeck said there’s a backlog of data that scientists still need to analyze even if Kepler’s planet-hunting days may be numbered. For the past four years, Kepler has focused its telescope on a patch of the Milky Way hosting more than 150,000 stars, recording slight dips in brightness — a sign of a planet passing in front of the star.

Now “We can’t point where we need to point. We can’t gather data,” Sobeck told The Associated Press.

Last month, astronomers announced Kepler’s discovery of two distant worlds that are the best candidates for habitable planets.

The $600 million mission is managed by the NASA Ames Research Center in Northern California.

Online:

Kepler: http://kepler.nasa.gov

More in Local News

500 tires go up in flames at a store south of Everett

There were no injuries. And it was nowhere near as bad as that months-long tire fire in 1984.

Inclusion super important to Monroe High senior

Sarah Reeves worked to make homecoming more representative of the student population.

A pot deal between teens leaves them injured, facing charges

Police found out about the incident when both ended up at the same hospital that night.

Funds up for council vote would aid conservation district

District stands to receive an extra $1 million each year, if the County Council gives its approval.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Lake Stevens man injured by 50-foot fall near Leavenworth

The rescuers had to tie in to keep from falling due to the steep rugged terrain.

Missing 6-year-old’s body found in trash bin near Lynnwood

Dayvid Pakko was mildly autistic. A suspect in his death is a relative, the sheriff’s office said.

1 shot dead, another wounded in apparent Everett robbery

There are indications the victims might have known the shooter, who apparently fled in a vehicle.

Hiding in plain sight: Burned Everett building had rich past

It was a hotel, boarding house, fraternal lodge, church, dance studio and office furniture store.

Most Read