NASA’s Kepler space telescope has discovered its first alien planet since malfunctioning in May 2013, and it’s a big one: HIP 116454b is a “super Earth” about 20,000 miles wide and 12 times more massive than our planet.
— NASA Kepler (@NASAKepler) December 18, 2014
“Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Kepler has been reborn and is continuing to make discoveries,” Andrew Vanderburg, the lead author of a study on the discovery, said in a statement. “Even better, the planet it found is ripe for follow-up studies.”
This alien planet is 180 light years away from Earth in the Pisces constellation, and its density suggests it is either a “mini Neptune” with a thick atmosphere or a water world, Space.com reports. Kepler was launched in March 2009 with the goal of finding out how often Earth-like planets occur around the Milky Way, and so far it has found almost 1,000 confirmed planets and 3,200 “candidates.”
– – Catherine Garcia