Feeds

NASA finds cash for Kepler's K2 planet-spotting mission

Not enough coin behind the sofa to keep Spitzer and NeoWISE alive

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

With budget reviews complete, NASA has okayed the extension of the Kepler mission, and has managed to find dollars to keep alive a bunch of other space astronomy missions.

It's bad news for the Spitzer mission, which at this stage is set to be cut in the new budget. The infrared space telescope, launched in 2003, exhausted its cryogenic coolant in 2009. Since then, it's been operating in “warm mode” with reduced sensitivity – but has continued to deliver data.

For example, during April we reported Spitzer's involvement in identifying a brown dwarf neighbour to the solar system, just 7.2 light years away.

“If the mission cannot operate with the recommended allocations, the Spitzer team should consult with Headquarters for a smooth termination of the mission,” the review states.

Spitzer would need a new appropriation from the US Congress in 2016, or its mission will come to an end.

It's far better news for Kepler fans, however, with the review recommending funding go ahead for the Kepler 2 mission.

NASA has already tested the idea, floated last year, that Kepler can be stabilised using the pressure of the solar wind. The K2 “Second Light” mission, NASA says, means there's “two years of funding for the K2 mission to continue exoplanet discovery”.

There'll also be “new scientific observation opportunities to observe notable star clusters, young and old stars, active galaxies and supernovae.”

Australian National University astronomer Dr Brad Tucker says the review decision, which provides dollars until the end of 2016, means the mission is funded “essentially until [Kepler] is about to run out of fuel”.

Dr Tucker has a stake in the continuation of the mission: K2 means that the work he's participating in, supernova-spotting, is on the list. The hope is that when Kepler is pointed away from the Milky Way and towards distant galaxies, the mission will be able to capture start-to-finish supernova events.

“For each field [of view] we will be monitoring between 3,000 and 10,000 galaxies,” Tucker explained to The Register.

“K2 will also do lots for different types of planet and star studies,” he noted, with 76 programs accepted. Most of them follow Kepler's original mission to study stars and use them to spot planets. “K2 will still be true to the original Kepler purpose, but it is diversifying”, he said.

NASA's response to the Senior Review also slates the MaxWISE mission to for the chop. ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.