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Congressional funding for Kepler — which has identified 1,235 candidate alien planets to date and recently discovered the first exoplanet with two suns in its sky — is due to run out in November 2012, but an extension may be approved is the new mission proposal is approved. The NASA Kepler team will know by next spring whether it's approved. Here are a few of Kepler's 2011 headline discoveries: Space Alert: Kepler Mission Discovers 1st Rocky Exo Planet
A close encounter of the harmless kind comes next Tuesday when an aircraft-carrier-size asteroid races past Earth. The asteroid, dubbed 2005 YU55, will come within 202,000 miles of Earth, closer than the moon, before zipping farther into space. Carbon-colored and dark, the asteroid measures some 1,300 feet wide. It will be the closest visit by a space rock this size in more than three decades.