NASA bids goodbye to planet-hunting Kepler space telescope
02 November, 2018, 23:42
"Now we know because of the Kepler Space Telescope and its science mission that planets are more common than stars in our galaxy".
Kepler combined cutting-edge techniques in measuring stellar brightness with the largest digital camera outfitted for outer space observations at that time.
Initially situated to gaze consistently at 150,000 stars in a single ritzy fix of the sky in the constellation Cygnus, Kepler took the primary study of planets in the cosmic system and turned into NASA's first mission to identify Earth- size planets in the livable zones of their stars.
Now orbiting the sun 156 million kilometres from Earth, the spacecraft will drift further from our planet when mission engineers turn off its radio transmitters, the USA space agency said. "Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalising mysteries and possibilities among the stars". Now that it's out of fuel, NASA chose to officially retire the spacecraft, letting it float in a safe orbit far from Earth. That means that we don't have to worry about it crashing down into someone's barn in Wyoming, but the statement doesn't actually say what will happen to the dead telescope.
"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries", said Jessie Dotson, Kepler's project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.
Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 planet discoveries outside our solar system. Kepler worked more than twice as long as expected, revolutionizing scientific understanding of planetary system formation along the way. Hertz said that NASA does not provide any definitive list of how numerous planets discovered by Kepler might be Earth-like, but a scientific paper published several years ago listed 30.
The planet-hunting spacecraft, credited with discovering thousands of exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system, will be retired and left in its current orbit, a safe distance from Earth, NASA announced Tuesday. This second phase of Kepler's science program was called the K2 mission.
NASA Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz made the announcement during a teleconference today that included Bill Borucki, Kepler's principal investigator. Recently, the MAST archive team won a NASA Group award for their work in hosting the Kepler data sets. In this century, the number of known exoplanets has exploded in size, mainly due to this spacecraft, NASA's Kepler space telescope, which was specifically designed as a planet-hunter.
A successor to Kepler launched in April, NASA'sTess spacecraft, has its sights on stars closer to home. "These results will form the basis for future searches for life". The distinction helped scientists zero in on potential Earth-like planets and better the odds for finding life.
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