The space observatory Kepler has run out of gas and, as a result, has been officially retired by NASA.
NASA says scientists have made discoveries at an incredible pace, and the data from Kepler will keep them going for at least the next decade.
With the data collected by Kepler during its nine-year lifespan allowed scientists to visualize a more complete picture of worlds beyond our own. Kepler telescope had been running low on fuel for months.
"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". Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 planet discoveries from outside our solar system, many of which could be promising places for life. I joined the Kepler science team in 2008 (as a wide-eyed rookie), eventually co-chairing the group studying the motions of the planets with Jack Lissauer.Originally, the mission was planned to last for three and a half years with possible extensions for as long as the fuel, or the camera, or the spacecraft lasted. The spacecraft, with a 1.4-meter diameter telescope, discovered almost 3000 exoplanets and many potential candidates that are still awaiting confirmation. Kepler discovered thousands of planets with varying characteristics.
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Between 20 and 50 percent of the stars visible in the night sky likely have rocky Earth-sized planets orbiting in their habitable zones, Kepler found.
"Now that we know that planets are everywhere, Kepler has put us on a new path full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy", said the veteran NASA researcher. Many have planets, and sometimes multiple planets, orbiting within the habitable zone of their host star, where liquid water may exist on their surfaces.As with any mission, the Kepler package came with trade-offs.
What Kepler found during its lifetime could be a guide not only in the continuing search for exoplanets, but the search for anything alive beyond Earth. However, in 2013, when two of its four stabilizing gyros (technically "reaction wheels") stopped, the original Kepler mission effectively ended.(Graphic: NASA Ames/W Stenzel) Even then, with some ingenuity, NASA was able to use reflected light from the Sun to help steer the spacecraft. The new mission was dubbed K2. 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.