Tuesday, 17 July, 2018


NASA's Kepler Spacecraft Downloads Science Data before beginning next campaign

NASA Kepler Space Telescope Venus like planet Kepler 1649 M dwarf stars SETI Institute NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre exoplanet discoveries new telescopes Science Science news "Alien Life Payload?" NASA's Kepler Spacecraft Downloads Exoplanet Science Data
Kristine Garrett | 11 July, 2018, 21:52

Kepler Space Telescope of NASA, the spaceship which has found numerous exoplanets since the time it entered in space in 2009, is into the last phase of its working.

"The Kepler team is planning to collect as much science data as possible in its remaining time and beam it back to Earth before the loss of the fuel-powered thrusters means that we can't aim the spacecraft for data transfer". During this low-power state, the space agency's team will prepare to download scientific data gathered by the spacecraft, after which point it may continue onto a new mission. Once the data has been downloaded, Kepler will resume its campaign with remaining fuel. The space telescope while proving to be an invaluable tool for gathering data from across the universe, suffered a mechanical malfunction to its systems in 2013, and was unable to steer effectively. What makes Tatooine one of the most weird exoplanets ever found is that it is orbiting two host stars which make it be a circumbinary planet.

Since May 12th, Kepler has been on its 18 observation campaign, staring at a patch of sky towards the constellation of Cancer it previously studied in 2015. "Returning the data back to Earth is the highest priority for the remaining fuel". The data from this mission will help astronomers to confirm previous exoplanet candidates, as well as find any new candidates. As per NASA, the original Kepler mission found 2,244 exoplanets candidates and 2,327 exoplanets were confirmed, the extended K2 mission has successfully identified 479 candidates and out of which 323 were confirmed. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development.

NASA says that the fuel is running very low and it is likely to run out in a few months at best. As the spaceship is in deep space region and is around 94M milers away from the orbit of earth, and there is no possibility that it will hit any life-bearing planet like icy moon, NASA is allowed to keep in the spaceship in working condition until it gives up. The space telescope will then begin its 19th campaign with its remaining fuel.

NASA has already launched Kepler's successor, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, which will also hunt for exoplanets.

The spacecraft was given a new lease on life by using the pressure of sunlight to maintain its pointing, like a kayak steering into the current. This is a part of Kepler's "K2" mission started in 2014.

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