The Kepler telescope has stopped its work

The Kepler telescope has stopped its work

The Kepler telescope has stopped its work

TESS builds on Kepler's foundation with fresh batches of data in its search of planets orbiting some 2,00,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to the Earth. Kepler's achievements have led us to a greater understanding of the universe, and has helped astronomers discover tremendous things, like the fact that there are more exoplanets than stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

Kepler was originally positioned to watch 150,000 stars in a patch of sky within the constellation Cygnus.

Launched in 2009, Kepler observed 530,506 stars and discovered more than 2600 confirmed planets.

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, with the fuel gauge near empty, the business of planet hunting is winding down and the spacecraft will be left adrift in the solar system. Kepler has also identified thousands more possible planets that are pending further investigation.

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The Kepler Space Telescope and the Dawn mission to Ceres and Vesta both lasted approximately a decade and yielded groundbreaking data about habitability, stellar systems, and the search for life beyond Earth.

"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". Scientists would even be able to see if the planet resides in the Goldilocks Zone, the distance between the planet and the star where water and possibly life could exist.

Four years into the mission, after the primary mission objectives had been met, mechanical failures temporarily halted observations.

"The Kepler mission was based on a very innovative design. It was an extremely clever approach to doing this kind of science", says director for astronomy and physics at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Leslie Livesay. Perhaps some of these alien worlds would harbor unusual forms of life or have unique and telling histories or futures. Indeed, one challenge for astronomers who want to study the properties of Kepler planets is that Kepler itself is often the best instrument to use.

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Kepler may no longer be for this world (or any other world), but the space telescope's discoveries will extend further beyond the end of its mission.

"If you only pick out the ones that are getting toward the end of their life then you can make a story, but if you look at the entire portfolio of spacecraft, I don't think we have a problem at all, I think we are in a golden age of NASA science", Hertz said.

Kepler was succeeded by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which was launched in April for a two-year, $337 million (€295 million) mission.

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