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Kepler team wins National Air and Space Museum trophy

The team in charge of NASA’s Kepler mission, responsible for history’s first detection of Earth-sized planets orbiting other suns in their “habitable zone,” will receive the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s highest group honour at a ceremony in Washington today.

Kepler will receive the 2015 Trophy for Current Achievement, which honours outstanding endeavours in the fields of aerospace science and technology.

Since its launch in March 2009, the Kepler mission has detected more than 4,000 candidate planets in orbit around other stars, or exoplanets for short. More than 1,000 of those exoplanet candidates have since been confirmed.

During its prime mission, Kepler simultaneously and continuously measured the brightness of more than 150,000 stars for four years, looking for the telltale dimming that would indicate the presence of an orbiting planet.

In May 2014, Kepler began a new mission, K2, to observe a series of fields along the ecliptic plane, the orbital path of the Earth about the sun, where the familiar constellations of the zodiac lie. This new mission provides scientists with an opportunity to search for even more exoplanets, as well as new opportunities to observe notable star clusters, young and old stars, active galaxies and supernovae. 

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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