Washington, Oct 31: A NASA sounding rocket launched with the aim of studying the darks voids in between the stars and galaxies that fill the night sky has failed to deliver science data because of a possible issue with the attitude control system.
The Dual-channel Extreme Ultraviolet Continuum Experiment, or DEUCE for short, was launched on Monday from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
“The Black Brant IX sounding rocket performed nominally. However, science data was not obtained because of a possible issue with the attitude control system,” NASA said in a statement late on Monday.
“The payload descended by parachute and was recovered. The Sounding Rocket Program Office is investigating the anomaly,” it added.
The cold, diffuse gas between galaxies — called the intergalactic medium, or IGM for short — hardly emits any light.
To shed light on the nature of the IGM, the sounding rocket was equipped with special ultraviolet optics.
The experiment was designed to measure starlight from a pair of nearby hot stars in the constellation Canis Major, aiming to help researchers understand how the IGM got to its current state.
One of the planets detected was orbiting a very bright star.
“We validated a planet on a 10-day orbit around a star called HD 212657, which is now the brightest star found by K2 missions to host a validated planet,” said lead author Andrew Mayo, a doctoral student at the National Space Institute (DTU Space) at the Technical University of Denmark.
For the study, appearing in the Astronomical Journal, the team started out analyzing 275 candidates of which 149 were validated as real exoplanets.
In turn 95 of these planets have proved to be new discoveries, Mayo said.
The Kepler spacecraft was first launched in 2009 to hunt for exoplanets in a single patch of sky, but in 2013 a mechanical failure crippled the telescope.
However, astronomers and engineers devised a way to repurpose and save the space telescope by changing its field of view periodically. This solution paved the way for the follow up K2 mission.
Adding the newly discovered exoplanets brings the total number of exoplanets by K2 mission to almost 300, the study said.
The first planet orbiting a star similar to our own Sun was detected only in 1995. Today some 3,600 exoplanets have been found, ranging from rocky Earth-sized planets to large gas giants like Jupiter. IANS