Kepler Telescope Is Dead After Finding Thousands Of Alien Worlds

Posted: Nov 4 2018, 2:28am CST | by , in Latest Science News

 

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Kepler Telescope is Dead after Finding Thousands of Alien Worlds
Credit: NASA

Astronomers used Kepler observations to discover 2,818 exoplanets and as many potential candidates.

After nine years traveling through space, NASA’s elite planet-hunting spacecraft Kepler is finally dead. Kepler telescope had been running low on fuel for months. However, recently NASA’s Kepler team received an indication that the spacecraft’s fuel tank is almost empty. The remaining fuel was not enough to perform further science operations. As a result, NASA decided to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit away from Earth.

“As NASA's first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond," said Thomas Zurbuchen from NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars.”

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft was launched in 2009 with the goal of finding planets beyond solar system. The spacecraft, with a 1.4-meter diameter telescope, discovered nearly 3000 exoplanets and many potential candidates that are still awaiting confirmation. To find the planets, Kepler used transit method and looked for tiny dips in stellar brightness that would indicate a planet passing in front of its host star.

Thanks to Kepler, the study of exoplanets has seen a remarkable boost in the past decade. Before the mission, our knowledge of planets outside our solar system that orbit a star was woefully lacking.

“When we started conceiving this mission 35 years ago, we didn't know of a single planet outside our solar system," said the Kepler mission's founding principal investigator, William Borucki. “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.”

Kepler was originally positioned to stare at one star-studded patch of the sky in the constellation Cygnus. Four years into the mission, osbervations were halted by mechanical failures. However, the spacecraft was repurposed and saved by changing its field of view periodically. The second phase of Kepler's mission was called K2 and the discoveries in this extended mission further improved our understanding of planets and planetary systems. Now, however, Kepler’s fantastic journey came to an end, many upcoming missions are waiting in the wings and will take over the exoplanet search.

"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. "I'm excited about the diverse discoveries that are yet to come from our data and how future missions will build upon Kepler's results."

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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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