NASA has announced a media teleconference set to take place at 1 p.m. EST on Thursday, December 14. The agency says the purpose of the event, which will stream live via the NASA website, is to reveal a new Kepler discovery. According to the announcement, the researchers used machine learning techniques developed by Google to draw new knowledge from data collected by the craft.
Kepler was launched in 2009, and it has already profoundly affected our understanding of space. When it set out on its voyage, we didn’t know how common planets were outside of our solar system. Now, thanks to the insights provided by Kepler, astronomers believe there might be one or more planets orbiting every star.
Due to issues with Kepler’s reaction wheels, its initial planet-hunting mission was brought to an end in 2013. Since then, it’s been on the hunt for exoplanets using its remaining capabilities.
Kepler has been used to observe the seven planets that comprise the TRAPPIST-1 system. NASA announced the discovery of these worlds in February 2017, and since then, the agency has been using Kepler, Spitzer, and Hubble to find out more about these bodies and their potential to support life.
NASA isn’t the only space agency that’s been consistently sharing major discoveries. In October, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) shared news of an “unprecedented” finding pertaining to gravitational waves. That announcement turned out to be the first time we were able to observe gravitational waves and light from the same event concurrently.
We don’t know what this latest Kepler discovery will be about, but the last time NASA announced a major news conference like the one scheduled for December 14, TRAPPIST-1 was the focus, so it’s reasonable to assume this week’s announcement will be something suitably exciting. Thankfully, the wait to find out for sure is a brief one.