The Kepler space telescope's end has finally come

The Kepler space telescope's end has finally come

The Kepler space telescope's end has finally come

Nasa's retired principal investigator for the Kepler mission, Bill Borucki, described it as an "enormous success".

The US space agency's Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel and is being retired after nine and a half years, having helped discover more than 2,600 planets, some of which may hold life, officials said Tuesday.

Borucki said his favorite exoplanet spotted by the telescope was Kepler 22B, located more than 600 light years from Earth. "Some of those, in fact, might be actual water worlds". It found inferno-like gas giants, rocky planets, planets orbiting binary stars, Earth-size planets, planets in the habitable zone capable of supporting liquid water on the surface, planets twice the size of Earth, the strangely flickering Tabby's Star, new details about the TRAPPIST-1 planets and, in December, an eight-planet system. "Imagine what life might be like on such planets".

"That's the path Kepler has put us on", said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"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", said Borucki.

Kepler made incredible discoveries, revealing that there are more planets than stars in our galaxy. "Now we know there are billions of planets that are rocky like the Earth and are orbiting their stars in the habitable zone, or the Goldilocks zone, where their temperatures might be conducive to water on the surface".

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NASA's legendary Kepler space telescope, which is responsible for the discovery of thousands of weird and intriguing exoplanets, has officially run out of fuel.

The end came just a few months shy of the 10th anniversary of Kepler's 2009 launch. However, while Kepler spent its prime mission looking at a single, very small region of the sky, TESS is performing an all-sky survey focused on the nearest and brightest stars.

The spacecraft's camera was not created to take pictures like other space telescopes.

Both use the same system of detecting planetary transits, or shadows cast as they pass in front of their star.

Bill Borucki, the mission's retired principal investigator, compared the task to "trying to detect a flea crawling across a auto headlight when the vehicle was 100 miles away".

Kepler discovered more than 2,600 planets outside our solar system. Small rocket thrusters were used to counteract the slight pressure exerted on the spacecraft by sunlight.

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The $700 million mission even helped to uncover a year ago a solar system with eight planets, just like ours. Flight controllers will disable the spacecraft's transmitters, before bidding a final "good night".

Six months after announcing the spacecraft's fuel stores were beginning to deplete, NASA announced Keplar's day had finally come on Wednesday.

"While this may be a sad event, we are by no means unhappy with the performance of this marvellous machine", NASA project system engineer Charlie Sobeck said.

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

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries", Jessie Dotson, Kepler's project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, said in a statement. "It always did everything we asked of it, and sometimes more". NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development.

Kepler hands off the baton to TESS now, NASA said. Scientists said that Kepler's data will support further research for a decade to come. "And the Kepler mission has paved the way for future exoplanet-studying missions".

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