Designer Edge Image of the Day -6-21-13 – Saving Kepler

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Last month NASA made the surprise announcement that its Kepler mission to hunt for exoplanets might be coming to an untimely end due to a second critical reaction wheel failure.

While astronomy enthusiasts like myself were wringing our hands over the dreaded news scientists Kieth Horne and Andrew Gould began to search for ways to resolve the problem.

In a recently released paper the two scientists have described how Kepler may still be able to search for exoplanets by using gravitational microlensing.

According to the general theory of relativity, a massive object like a planet produces a distortion in Space. This distortion can be likened to the bend of a lens and as such it will change the appearance of objects that lay beyond it.

In their paper Horne and Gould argue that Kepler could still be used to detect exoplanet that are exhibiting these microlensing effects. If Kepler could be used in coordination with ground-based observatories it might still be able to make a meaningful contribution towards the discovery of exoplanets.

For now, Horne and Gould’s idea is still just a proposal and NASA is still trying to determine what needs to be done with its disabled satellite.  Hopefully, more proposals for Kepler fixes will continue to pour in, and NASA will find one that gives the satellite renewed potential.

Image Courtesy of NASA