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Kepler Mission: K2 spacecraft operation tests continue

Posted February 18, 2014
K2 spacecraft operation tests continue
During a spacecraft operation performance test in Jan. 2014, one transit of the previous known exoplanet WASP-28b was captured. The data were obtained at 1 min intervals. The observation proves the repurposed spacecraft can still detect planets. Credit: NASA Ames/T. Barclay
On Jan. 30, in response to an invitation from NASA Headquarters, the Kepler team submitted a proposal to the 2014 Astrophysics Senior Review of Operating Missions to continue scientific observations with the Kepler spacecraft in this new two-wheel mode of operation. The team is very excited about the science opportunities the new K2 mission could enable. We continue to run demonstration tests to learn the nuances of operating the spacecraft, and progress has been good.

The K2 mission definition continues to mature. The mission can explicitly address continued exoplanet discovery, but perhaps of greater interest is that it can find planets around bright and nearby stars. Continuing additions to the exoplanet catalog give us more targets for follow-up observations and will inform future missions to better characterize the nature of these planets, including their atmospheres. The K2 mission also would open a window on well-known star-forming regions and stellar clusters of varying ages, providing insight into stellar evolution. Observations of other galaxies, supernovae and even gravitational microlensing events, are also exciting new opportunities with K2.

During one of the demonstration tests, the known planet-hosting star WASP-28 was observed while in K2’s field of view.

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