Goodbye, Kepler Space Telescope

Cesar Mills
November 2, 2018

Voyage of discovery: Kepler was NASA's first planet-hunting mission and it was wildly successful: so far it has discovered 2,662 exoplanets in our galaxy.

Kepler's discoveries have shed a new light on mankind's place in the Universe.

"NASA's original planet hunter, the Kepler Space Telescope, has run out of fuel", said Paul Hertz, director of NASA's astrophysics division.

William Borucki, principle investigator when the mission was launched, commented: "Now that we know planets are everywhere Kepler has set us on a new course that is full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy".

Thanks to Kepler's data, which was all safely beamed back to Earth before the end of the mission, we now know that planets are, in fact, exceedingly common.

Kepler discovered more than 2,600 planets outside our solar system.

It used a detection method called transit photometry, which looked for periodic, repetitive dips in the visible light of stars caused by planets passing, or transiting, in front of them.

"The Kepler spacecraft may now be retired, but the Kepler data will continue to yield scientific discoveries for years to come", Hertz said.

"Because of fuel exhaustion, the Kepler spacecraft has reached the end of its service life", he said. We've also found planets that were formed at the beginning of the formation of our galaxy six-and-a-half billion years before the formation of our own star and before the formation of the Earth.

The space agency says it has chose to retire Kepler while it is located in its present orbit, which it describes as safe and away from Earth.

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Based on the planets discovered by Kepler, researchers now think about 20 to 50 percent of stars in the Milky Way harbor rocky, roughly Earth-sized planets that may be able to support liquid water on their surfaces. As of October 29, Kepler had detected 2,681 exoplanets, with an additional 2,899 exoplanet candidates awaiting confirmation, said Jessie Dotson, Kepler project scientist at NASA Ames.

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries", according to Jessie Dotson, Kepler's project scientist at the Ames Research Center.

Kepler's data also provided a new way to assess whether a planet had a solid surface, like Earth and Mars, or is gaseous, like Jupiter and Saturn.

Goodbye, Kepler. And though you may be drifting in the dark tens of millions of miles away from your homeworld, you showed that the cosmos may not be so lonely, and your contributions will not be forgotten.

Launched in March 2009, the space observatory (named after astronomer Johannes Kepler) was created to assess some 150,000 stars in the constellation Cygnus.

Planetary exploration is going through a wider-ranging changing of the guard: For example, NASA's Dawn mission to the dwarf planet Ceres is ending, due to the same empty-tank issue that Kepler faced.

"He put together a like-minded team of scientists and engineers", Hertz said of Borucki.

Kepler's more advanced successor is the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in April.

There was a lot of malfunction that happened with steering and dwindling hydrazine fuel levels costing $600 million spacecraft which stayed in action nearly for nine years and with 19 observation campaigns which are longer than its original four-year mission. The new mission, studying near and bright stars, was dubbed K2.

Other reports by GizPress

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