NASA has discovered the first exoplanet with a repurposed version of the Ball Aerospace-developed Kepler spacecraft.
Lead researcher Andrew Vanderburg studied data collected by Kepler in February during a K2 mission test in which the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo’s HARPS-North spectrograph took measurements that confirmed the new find, Ball Aerospace said Thursday.
“Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics division director.
Kepler has a built-in camera system that identifies a planet by detecting a distant star that dims as a planet passes by it.
The newly-confirmed planet — named HIP 116454b — follows a nine-day orbit around a star that some scientists believe is smaller and cooler than the sun.
Ames oversees Kepler’s mission concept, ground system development, science data analysis and K2 mission operations while NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed Kepler mission development.