NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft Wakes Up Again

Posted: Oct 14 2018, 10:43am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 14 2018, 10:49am CDT , in Latest Science News


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NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft Wakes up Again
Credit: NASA

The planet-hunter is expected to run out of fuel within months.

NASA’s planet-hunting telescope Kepler is back awake and is preparing to send science data collected in its latest observation campaign.

NASA placed the Kepler spacecraft into hibernation last month when its performance started to degrade. Since the spacecraft is almost out of fuel, researchers were unsure if they were able to download science data from 19th observing campaign.

The prolific planet detector Kepler began its 19th campaign on August 29. For the next 27 days, the telescope observed more than 30,000 stars and galaxies in the constellation of Aquarius, including the well-known TRAPPIST-1 system with its seven Earth-sized planets. The spacecraft came out of hibernation on October 11.

“On October 11, NASA woke up the Kepler spacecraft and maneuvered it into a stable configuration that will allow NASA to download the latest data with the least amount of fuel consumption. We are still monitoring the health of the spacecraft while working towards downloading data from Campaign 19.” NASA scientists wrote in an update.

Launched in 2009, Kepler spacecraft has been searching for planets outside our solar system and has discovered nearly 3,000 confirmed worlds and as many potential candidates. Kepler has survived many mechanical failures over the course of its decade-long journey. Even NASA had to end Kepler’s primary mission in 2013 after its reaction wheels stopped functioning.

After that blow, Kepler was unable to hold its gaze steady at the original field of view. The solution paved the way for the follow-up K2 mission, which continued Kepler's search for other worlds and provided new opportunities to observe star clusters, faraway galaxies and supernovae. However, Kepler’s fuel tank is now running very low and is expected to last only few months. With this, Kepler's journey is likely over.

Meanwhile, NASA is planning to collect as much science data as possible, forcing the spacecraft to enter sleep mode occasionally. Once the latest data has been downloaded, Kepler will attempt to start next observing campaign with the remaining fuel.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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