Recently, the Kepler mission announced that two reaction wheels on the spacecraft have failed, and so the telescope won’t be able to point as accurately as before. As a result, data from the telescope will suffer from large instrumental variations (see figure at right), and so it will be difficult to detect Earth-like planets. However, the telescope may be able to detect other kinds of planets and study other astronomical phenomena.
In response to a request from Kepler for new ideas of what to do with the telescope, I wrote about an idea to search for very short-period (less than 1 day) planets. A re-purposed Kepler mission could continue the search for nearly Earth-sized planets in very short-period orbits. Our recent work revealed more than a dozen such planetary candidates, and a more complete and focused survey is likely to reveal more.