During its mission, the Kepler Space Telescope recorded much for scientists to look over and examine. During a recent reevaluation of the data, it turned out that three of the objects that were originally classified as possible planets turned out to be small stars.
Kepler Space Telescope’s Mission
Launched by NASA back in 2009, the Kepler telescope was on a mission to look for Earth-sized planets in orbit of other stars. It was shut down in 2018 having discovered 2,662 exoplanets and observed 530,506 stars. It repeatedly recorded the brightness of thousands of stars and the data was checked to look for dips that could be explained by a planet partially blocking the light. If consistent dips indicated a likely planet, it was considered a planet candidate. Without being added to the catalog of known exoplanets, over 5,000 such candidates were identified in Kepler and TESS data.
Three “Planets” Were Actually Stars
Follow-up research of the collected data was conducted to rule out alternative explanations before the candidates could be listed as exoplanets. This was initially done by looking for movement under the presumed planet’s gravitational influence. However, this method required a lot of time and equipment to do, so scientists moved to statistical verification techniques. During the reevaluation of the data, it was found that Kepler-854b, Kepler-840b, and Kepler-699b were more likely small stars rather than planets.
How the Error Was Discovered
According to the research authors, the aforementioned objects were simply too large to be planets. Prajwal Niraula, an MIT graduate student, stated that most exoplanets are Jupiter-sized or smaller, and what they found exceeded twice the size of Jupiter, which meant they couldn’t be planets. One of the study authors, Dr. Avi Shporer, states that making sure that the list of planets is not contaminated by incorrect data, as people will rely on it for future research when studying the population of planets as a whole.
Constructing landing pads, roads, and habitats on the Moon will appear different than the common building site on Earth. Excavation robots will have to be lightweight and capable of digging in reduced gravity.
Whole New Construction Methods Designed by NASA
As an important part of the Artemis program, NASA has a new concept for the core surface elements required to establish a sustained presence on the Moon. This emphasizes a way to allow astronauts to conduct more science and explore. They are thinking about putting in place a special lunar terrain vehicle, a surface habitat on the Moon, and a habitable mobility platform or lunar RV by the end of the decade. The organization is investing in advanced manufacturing, which is one of the five industries in total, for the future to enable improved life on Earth and space exploration. This also includes technologies that can find and use the available sources on Mars and the Moon to build out future infrastructure.
Today, NASA is working with a highly-advanced construction technologies company called ICON. It’s based in Austin, Texas. The R&D of a space-based construction system could support the future exploration of Mars and the Moon. The company has 3D-printed whole communities of structures and homes on Earth and participated in NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge. There, the agency shows an innovative construction method and technologies that may be adaptable for applications beyond our home planet.
Further Collaboration with NASA
Another U.S. government agency is extremely interested in applications and technology here on Earth. The U.S. gave ICON a dual-sense SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) to expand 3D printing to workable and livable structures. As a part of the contract that NASA also funded will be the exploration commonalities between Off-Earth and Earth-based applications. ICON will also put effort into this investment.
The co-founder and CEO of ICON states that from the very establishment of the company, they have been thinking about off-world construction. They are confident that learning to build on other planets than the Earth will also offer the required breakthroughs required to solve housing challenges humanity faces in this world.
The SBIR award will build on ICON’s commercial demonstrations and activities on Phase 3 of NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge. The whole project can result in a unique collaboration to further the technology development efforts by NASA.