Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

NASA bids goodbye to planet-hunting Kepler space telescope

The Kepler space telescope's end has finally come NASA's Kepler spacecraft dead after discovering thousands of planets
Sandra Phillips | 02 November, 2018, 01:01

The US space agency's Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel and is being retired after nine and a half years, having helped discover more than 2,600 planets, some of which may hold life, officials said Tuesday.

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

TESS builds on Kepler's foundation with fresh batches of data in its search of planets orbiting some 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to the Earth, worlds that can later be explored for signs of life by missions such as Nasa's James Webb Space Telescope.

Kepler's mission was to determine if earth-like planets are common or rare outside our own solar system and was originally meant to only last three-and-a-half years. "Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that's full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy".

Earlier this year, it became clear that the Kepler Space Telescope was running low on fuel - NASA has since been planning a replacement to take over the iconic satellite's ongoing search for exoplanets. Kepler was created to survey more than 100,000 stars in our galaxy to determine the number of sun-like stars that have Earth-size and larger planets, including those that lie in a star's 'habitable zone, ' a region where liquid water, and perhaps life, could exist.

The unmanned space telescope, which launched in 2009, revealed that billions of hidden planets are in space and revolutionized humanity's understanding of the universe, experts said.

As it orbits some 156 million kilometres from Earth, Keplar's radio transmitters will soon be turned off by mission engineers and the spacecraft will be left to drift forever around the sun.

Due to space telescope, scientists learned about the existence of supertall - planets whose mass exceeds the mass of the Earth.

Between its launch in March 2009 and May 2013 Kepler discovered 2,327 exoplanets, outside the Sun's solar system, by studying 150,000 stars whilst looking at a small area of sky.

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The most common size of planet Kepler found doesn't exist in our solar system - a world between the size of Earth and Neptune - and we have much to learn about these planets.

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

Kepler discovered thousands of planets, many of them similar in size to the Earth (far right), though how they might appear is still a matter of speculation. TESS is on a two-year, $337 million mission.

Inside the Hazardous Processing Facility at Astrotech in Titusville, Fla., NASA's Kepler spacecraft is placed on a stand for fueling.

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. "And the Kepler mission has paved the way for future exoplanet-studying missions".

K2 lasted as long as the first mission, allowing Kepler to survey more than 500,000 stars total.

The telescope has also been used to take brightness measurements from stars, to help understand their inner workings.

Nasa says Kepler's mission may be over but its discoveries will be studied for years to come. "Science operations are over", NASA astrophysics division director Paul Hertz told reporters on a conference call.

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