NASA bids goodbye to Kepler Space Telescope


The Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel and will be retired after a 9-1/2-year mission in which it detected thousands of planets beyond our solar system and boosted the search for worlds that might harbor alien life, NASA said on Tuesday. "Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars".

The US space agency has announced that the Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel and is being retired, having helped discover 2,600 planets, some of which may hold life.

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

"Before we launched Kepler, we didn't know if planets were common or rare in our galaxy", he said. During the near-decade of its life, Kepler found evidence of more than 2,600 planets located beyond our solar system.

The far more advanced James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to lift off in 2021, should be able to reveal more about planets' mass, density and the makeup of their atmosphere - all clues to habitability.

Just like biologists continue to discover new species by examining the samples already found in museum collections, the data already gathered by Kepler could keep astronomers busy for years to come.

Kepler has revolutionised our understanding of the universe.

Kepler has opened our eyes to the diversity of planets that exist in our galaxy.

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

Kepler launched initially with enough fuel on board to sustain it for four years - and it's lasted nine.

Among its many findings, Dawn helped scientists discover organics on Ceres and evidence that dwarf planets could have hosted oceans over a significant part of their history-and possibly still do. It also unveiled incredible super Earths: planets bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune.

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries", Kepler's project scientist Jessie Dotson said.

Since being sent into space in early 2009 the telescope has found 2,681 confirmed exoplanets (planets found outside our solar system) and another 2,899 candidates.

Both use the same system of detecting planetary transits, or shadows cast as they pass in front of their star. Among these worlds are rocky, Earth-sized planets, some of which orbit within their stars' habitable zones, where liquid water could pool on the surface. "There were definitely challenges, but Kepler had an extremely talented team of scientists and engineers who overcame them". As of October 29, Kepler had detected 2,681 exoplanets, with an additional 2,899 exoplanet candidates awaiting confirmation, said Jessie Dotson, Kepler project scientist at NASA Ames.

The latest data, from Campaign 19, will complement the data from Nasa's newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in April.

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".