Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

Historic Kepler Space Telescope Put Into Retirement by NASA Officials

This artist’s rendering provided by NASA shows the Kepler space telescope. AP This artist’s rendering provided by NASA shows the Kepler space telescope. AP
Sandra Phillips | 02 November, 2018, 23:41

The Kepler space telescope, which has been exploring galaxies for almost a decade, is about to retire.

The end of Kepler comes at the same time as two other NASA space telescopes, Hubble and Chandra, have experienced problems, but Hertz stressed it is all coincidental.

Initially situated to gaze consistently at 150,000 stars in a single ritzy fix of the sky in the constellation Cygnus, Kepler took the primary study of planets in the cosmic system and turned into NASA's first mission to identify Earth- size planets in the livable zones of their stars.

Thomas Zurbuchen, the head of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said Kepler "wildly exceeded all our expectations" and "sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm..."

"He added that "[the] discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars".

NASA said it has made a decision to retire the spacecraft "within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth".

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After nine and a half years in orbit, 530,506 stars observed and 2,662 planets discovered around other stars, the little spacecraft will be left to drift forever around the sun. The latest data from the Kepler Space Telescope's last mission, Campaign 19, will be used together with the data gathered by its replacement, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries", said Kepler's project scientist Jessie Dotson. It has also helped discover the first ever moon to be present beyond our solar system.

Data pile After observing more than half a million stars over the course of the mission, Kepler's data has revealed that the most common exoplanet lies somewhere between the scale of Earth and Neptune. Like its predecessor, it will roam space in search of planets orbiting around 200,000 of our galaxy's brightest stars.

Kepler continued to hunt for planets during its K2 phase. "It was an extremely clever approach to doing this kind of science", said Leslie Livesay, director for astronomy and physics at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who served as Kepler project manager during mission development. Now, Nasa's hashtag "moreplanetsthanstars" says it all: the universe is home to more planets than stars, with billions of potentially habitable planets just in our own galaxy. It was meant to last for three and a half years and ended up sticking around for nearly 10. It found inferno-like gas giants, rocky planets, planets orbiting binary stars, Earth-size planets, planets in the habitable zone capable of supporting liquid water on the surface, planets twice the size of Earth, the strangely flickering Tabby's Star, new details about the TRAPPIST-1 planetsand, in December, an eight-planet system. Kepler launched into an Earth-trailing heliocentric (sun-centered) orbit in 2009.

Starting in 2014, this new mission was dubbed K2. The first data from TESS is already being sent to Earth and analyzed. In this century, the number of known exoplanets has exploded in size, mainly due to this spacecraft, NASA's Kepler space telescope, which was specifically designed as a planet-hunter. "These results will form the basis for future searches for life".

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