This artist concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. In May, the spacecraft began its new mission observing in the ecliptic plane, the orbital path of Earth around the sun, depicted by the grey-blue line marked by opaque cross-like shapes. Each shape represents the field-of-view of an observing campaign.
Using publicly available data collected by the spacecraft in February during the performance concept test to prove K2 would work, astronomers confirmed the first exoplanet detected by the K2 mission. The newly confirmed planet, HIP 116454b, is two-and-a-half times the diameter of Earth, and closely orbits a star smaller and cooler than our sun once every nine days, making the planet too hot for life as we know it. The star and planet are 180 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Pisces.
Illustration credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
Note: For more information, see NASA's Kepler Reborn, Makes First Exoplanet Find of New Mission and Reborn Kepler Spacecraft Finds 'Super-Earth'.