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Kepler space telescope spots first planet now falling into its star

The quest of the Kepler telescope to discover exoplanets by studying their transits in front of their home stars began in 2009. 

First dismissed as a false alarm, astronomer Ashley Chontos and her colleagues revealed in 2019 that the first possible planet spotted by the telescope was in fact real Science News: March 5, 2019. 

Kepler Telescope

The official designation of the planet is Kepler 1658b. Chontos and others have determined Kepler 1658b’s destiny. Current Princeton University student Chontos states It is sadly crashing into its host star.

The Earth has approximately 2,500,000 years left until its devastating destruction. It will eventually be submerged. 

The planet is around the size of Jupiter and makes a three-day orbit around its star. During additional observations between 2019 and 2022, the planet proceeded to transit the star ahead of schedule.

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Kepler’s Planet Discovery

Space-Technology-Ashley Chontos-Kepler-Jupiter
Kepler’s quest to discover exoplanets by studying their transits in front of their home stars began in 2009.

In 2009, Kepler data revealed the existence of the exoplanet Kepler-1658b for the first time. However, it took a full decade for subsequent research to establish its existence. Now it appears that the enormous planet, which is nearly as huge as six Jupiters, may not have as much time remaining as previously anticipated.

Astrophysicist Shreyas Vissapragada of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, explains, You can see that the delay between the transits is decreasing at a pace of 131 milliseconds each year.

That seems insignificant. Nonetheless, if this trend continues, only two or three million years are left for the planet to exist. Vissapragada explains, For something that has been for two to three billion years, that is relatively brief. If the planet’s lifespan were 100 years, it would have slightly more than a month remaining.

Observing Kepler 1658b as it dies can help understand the life cycles of other planets with comparable compositions. Vissapragada explains, By understanding the true physics of how orbits contract with time, we can have a clearer understanding of the destinies of all these planets.

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