Cape Canaveral, Sep 23, 2017:NASA’s asteroid-chasing spacecraft is swinging by Earth on its way to a space rock.
Launched a year ago, Osiris-Rex will pass within about 11,000 miles (17,700 kilometers) of the home planet Friday afternoon. It will use Earth’s gravity as a slingshot to put it on a path toward the asteroid Bennu.
If all goes well, Osiris-Rex should reach the small, roundish asteroid next year and, in 2020, collect some of its gravel for return to Earth.
Friday’s close approach will occur over Antarctica. It will be a quick hello: The spacecraft will speed by at about 19,000 mph (31,000 kph). NASA has taken precautions to ensure Osiris-Rex does not slam into any satellites. Ground telescopes, meanwhile, have been trying to observe the spacecraft while it’s in the neighborhood.
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