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Search for extraterrestrial life goes on, even without Kepler

Published: Tuesday, May 21 2013 12:25 p.m. MDT

This undated handout artist concept provided by Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows the newly discovered planets named Kepler-62e and -f. Scientists using NASA's Kepler telescope have found two distant planets that are in the right place and are the right size for potential life. This handout image from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows an artist concept of what these two planets, called Kepler-62-e and Kepler-62-f look like. The larger planet in the left corner is somewhat covered by ice and is f, which is farther from the star. The planet below it is e, which is slightly warmer and has clouds and may be a water world. (AP Photo/Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) (Associated Press) This undated handout artist concept provided by Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows the newly discovered planets named Kepler-62e and -f. Scientists using NASA's Kepler telescope have found two distant planets that are in the right place and are the right size for potential life. This handout image from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows an artist concept of what these two planets, called Kepler-62-e and Kepler-62-f look like. The larger planet in the left corner is somewhat covered by ice and is f, which is farther from the star. The planet below it is e, which is slightly warmer and has clouds and may be a water world. (AP Photo/Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) (Associated Press)

The Kepler satellite is in trouble. Meg Urry breaks the news on CNN that the much beloved telescope, which “has found more than 2,700 possible planets orbiting stars other than our Sun, of which more than 100 have been confirmed,” may be nearing the end of its life now that “the second of four of the Kepler spacecraft's reaction wheels, which aim the vessel's instruments, appears to have failed. It remains to be seen whether full repairs are possible.”

But have no fear, the search for life will not end with Kepler. Urry notes that they found many planets before Kepler, albeit using more menial ways of doing it. On top of that “A Yale astronomy professor, Debra Fischer, has pioneered clever improvements to this technique so that she can find 100 Earth-size planets, perhaps 10 percent of which might harbor life.”

So even if we do lose the iconic Kepler satellite, don’t give up hope. “I say: With Kepler or without, it's only a matter of time until we find signs of life on other worlds."

This is an Jan. 2011 handout artist rendering provided by NASA. NASA\'s Kepler telescope is finding that relatively smaller planets, still larger than Earth but tinier than Jupiter, are proving more common outside our solar system than once thought. (NASA Ames Research Center) This is an Jan. 2011 handout artist rendering provided by NASA. NASA\'s Kepler telescope is finding that relatively smaller planets, still larger than Earth but tinier than Jupiter, are proving more common outside our solar system than once thought. (NASA Ames Research Center)

Freeman Stevenson is a Snow College grad and is the DeseretNews.com opinion intern. Reach me at fstevenson@deseretdigital or @freemandesnews

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