The timeline series includes a compilation of artist’s concepts depicting milestones from the Kepler mission—NASA’s first mission capable of detecting Earth-size planets around sun-like stars. Milestones include launch of the space telescope, the first transiting planetary system, the smallest planet with both radius and mass measurements, the first six-planet system, the first double-star planet, the smallest planet in the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun.
Image credit: NASA Ames Research Center/W. Stenzel

NASA’s Kepler Completes Prime Mission, Begins Extended Mission

11.14.2012

NASA is marking two milestones in the search for planets like Earth — the successful completion of the Kepler Space Telescope’s 3 1/2- year prime mission and the beginning of an extended mission that could last as long as four years.

Scientists have used Kepler data to identify more than 2,300 planet candidates and confirm more than 100 planets – teaching us that the galaxy is teeming with planetary systems, that planets are prolific, and hints that nature makes small planets efficiently.

So far, hundreds of Earth-size planet candidates have been found as well as candidates that orbit in the habitable zone, the region in a planetary system where liquid water might exist on the surface of a planet. None of the candidates is exactly like Earth. With the completion of the prime mission, Kepler has now collected enough data to begin finding true sun-Earth analogs — Earth-size planets with a one-year orbit around stars similar to the sun.

Read more: NASA – NASA's Kepler Completes Prime Mission, Begins Extended Mission.

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