Science

Kepler telescope declared dead after finding thousands of worlds

Kepler telescope declared dead after finding thousands of worlds

"We have shown there are more planets than stars in our galaxy, that many of these planets are roughly the size of the Earth and some, like the Earth, are at the right distance from their star that there could be liquid water on the surface, a situation conducive to the existence of life", Borucki said. "Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars", said Zurbuchen.

The NASA Kepler space observatory's utterly successful nine-year-old mission to seek out Earth-size planets orbiting other stars has come to a glorious end.

Thanks to the spacecraft, scientists have learned that the Milky Way galaxy has more planets than stars.

"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 retired from NASA's Ames Research Centre in California's Silicon Valley.

The distinction helped scientists zero in on potential Earth-like planets and better the odds of finding conditions which could support life.

Over the course of its nine years, Kepler identified 2,662 planets and 61 supernovae on just 3.12 gallons of fuel.

"The Kepler spacecraft may now be retired, but the Kepler data will continue to yield scientific discoveries for years to come", Hertz said. But without the fuel needed to conduct further science operations, NASA opted to end the mission.

"In the end, we didn't have a drop of fuel left over for anything else", Charlie Sobeck, project system engineer at NASA's Ames Research Center, said during a teleconference.




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

Now orbiting the sun 94 million miles (156 million km) from Earth, the spacecraft will drift further from our planet when mission engineers turn off its radio transmitters, the United States space agency said.

"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".

As of today, Kepler has detected 2,681 confirmed planets, plus 2,899 other candidates yet to be confirmed, said Kepler project scientist Jessie Dotson. But Kepler's overall planet census showed that 20 to 50 per cent of the stars visible in the night sky could have planets like ours in the habitable zone for life, he said. "There were definitely challenges, but Kepler had an extremely talented team of scientists and engineers who overcame them". "That was an wonderful diving catch", said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters.

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.

Telescope Kepler was launched in 2009, its task is the search for exoplanets.

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is already in space and embarking on its own planetary hunt using a similar method to Kepler, keeping an eye on dips in starlight as planets move between the satellite and its host star. "And the Kepler mission has paved the way for future exoplanet-studying missions".


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