RIP Kepler: NASA's exoplanet-hunting space telescope is finally dead

The Kepler space telescope's end has finally come

The Kepler space telescope's end has finally come

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 harbour alien life, NASA said on Tuesday.

And now after a mammoth nine-and-a-half-year mission in search of potentially life-sustaining planets, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has officially run out of fuel.

Its ability to point at specific regions in the cosmos worsened dramatically at the beginning of October, but flight controllers still managed to retrieve its latest observations. "But now we know, because of the Kepler Space Telescope and its science mission, that planets are more common than stars in our galaxy".

Launched in 2009, the Kepler space telescope was a pioneering spacecraft that shattered most scientists' expectations.

When it comes to the planet quest, the next big thing on the horizon is the James Webb Space Telescope, which is now due for launch in 2021 and may be able to look for signs of life in the atmospheres of alien planets.

The telescope even helped pinpoint the first moon known outside our solar system.

Kepler's data also provided a new way to assess whether a planet had a solid surface, like Earth and Mars, or is gaseous, like Jupiter and Saturn. 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.

The space agency says it has made a decision to retire Kepler while it is located in its present orbit, which it describes as safe and away from Earth.

"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.

NASA's Kepler planet-hunting telescope now belongs to the ages, with its fuel completely spent and its instruments shut down - but the planet quest continues, thanks to a treasure trove of downloaded data as well as a new generation of robotic planet-hunters.

"Because of Kepler, what we think about our place in the universe has changed", Hertz said.

"Around every star in the galaxy, we're confident now that there's probably at least one planet - so more planets than stars without a doubt and that's something that Kepler has shown us", he said.

"The Kepler mission has been an enormous success", said Bill Borucki, the original Kepler principal investigator and leader of the team that convinced NASA to build and launch the $692 million mission in 2009.

Borucki, who dreamed up the mission decades ago, said one of his favourite discoveries was Kepler 22b, a water planet bigger than Earth but where it is not too warm and not too cold - the type "that could lead to life".

Kepler showed us that "we live in a galaxy that's teeming with planets, and we're ready to take the next step to explore those planets", she said. It's already identified some possible planets.

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.

The final commands have been sent, and the spacecraft will remain a safe distance from Earth to avoid colliding with our planet.

An artist's rendition of the Kepler in space.

Notícias recomendadas

  • Cuadrilla pauses Lancashire fracking after seismic event

    Cuadrilla pauses Lancashire fracking after seismic event

    The latest "micro seismic event" was recorded at 11.30 am United Kingdom time on Monday by both Cuadrilla and BGS. It paused for the day after an amber quake last week, before stopping for 18 hours on Saturday after a red quake.
    Facebook loses more users in Europe as its growth continues to cool

    Facebook loses more users in Europe as its growth continues to cool

    About 14 million people had sensitive information, like their search history and location check-in history, accessed by hackers. Critics panned the idea, saying the company wouldn't be able to convince users to put a Facebook-made camera in their homes.
    Tottenham get two of four NFL London games in 2019

    Tottenham get two of four NFL London games in 2019

    The NFL played a trio of games in London in 2018, with all three at Wembley after delays in the Hotspur stadium construction. However, the Jacksonville Jaguars are committed to playing one game in London each year.
  • Board Recommends UMD Head Football Coach, AD Should Keep Jobs

    Board Recommends UMD Head Football Coach, AD Should Keep Jobs

    Maryland University President Wallace Loh announced at Tuesday's press conference he will retire at the end of the academic year. According to the latter report, which can be read in its entirety here, a culture of fear was prevalent under Durkin.
    WWE wrestling superstar pulls out of Saudi event

    WWE wrestling superstar pulls out of Saudi event

    The issue is that Cena has more power to say no and Bryan has plenty of money saved and does not worry about WWE's politics. Cena was scheduled to be a participant in the World Cup tournament at the event.
    Google's Halloween game is basically Ghosts.io and it's spooky multiplayer fun

    Google's Halloween game is basically Ghosts.io and it's spooky multiplayer fun

    Before venturing in, though, a word of warning: If it's like Google's other Doodle games, it'll likely be highly addicting. In order to get the spirits you collect to contribute to your team's total, they have to be deposited back at your base.
  • Cameron Champ wins Sanderson Farms to begin hyped career

    Cameron Champ wins Sanderson Farms to begin hyped career

    While Champ was struggling, Conners was surging on a warm day in central MS that saw temperatures climb into the 80s. Nick Taylor (71) of Abbotsford, B.C., and Ben Silverman (71) of Thornhill, Ont., were tied for 36th at 5 under.
    Sony has now shipped 86.1 million PS4s

    Sony has now shipped 86.1 million PS4s

    Sony raised its annual profit forecast to 870 billion yen or $7.7 billion from an earlier estimate of 670 billion yen. In recent quarters, Sony's PlayStation 4 video game operations, especially software sales, have been doing well.

    Pakistan acquits Christian woman Bibi in iconic blasphemy case

    The court directed that Aasia Bibi be immediately released from jail if she is not wanted in any other cases. Pakistan's top court has ruled to release a woman who was on death row for allegedly insulting Islam.
  • AR Murugadoss agrees to appreciate Varun, `Sarkar` issue sorted out

    AR Murugadoss agrees to appreciate Varun, `Sarkar` issue sorted out

    I wrote this story in 2004 for Vijay . "If it is proved that AR Murugadoss copied the story, then he should surely be punished". Irrespective of what AR Murugadoss or his supporters say, it is an embarrassing situation for the star director now .
    Gemfields finds 1.1 kg emerald at Kagem in Zambia

    Gemfields finds 1.1 kg emerald at Kagem in Zambia

    Gemfields said it will donate 10 percent of the proceeds of the sale of Inkalamu to the two organizations. A massive emerald crystal was unearthed in the world's largest emerald mine in Zambia in early October.
    Nelly Korda shoots 69 to share 3rd-round lead in Taiwan

    Nelly Korda shoots 69 to share 3rd-round lead in Taiwan

    But I played well and I'm extremely happy with the result", Hsu said. "It's really nice to see". Hsu is now tied with American Nelly Korda at 9-under 207 after the third day of the tournament.

We are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper.
Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.