Published: Fri, November 02, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

The exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope is now dead

The exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope is now dead

The spacecraft, which has run out of fuel, was launched in the year 2009 and has since then revealed data on billions of new planets and encouraged the further search for alien life, said the officials. Scientists credit it for changing the way they think about other worlds that may be visited someday.

Kepler has been able to discover 2,681 planets outside our solar system and exoplanet candidates.

Many of these planets, he said, may be just warm enough that they could have liquid water on their surface, "a situation conducive to the existence of life".

Kepler is now orbiting the sun at a distance of about 94 million miles from Earth.

Looking forward, MAST is the home to the data from NASA's next great exoplanet hunting observatory, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

NASA's Kepler space telescope is done with its work collecting astounding science data showing there are more planets than stars in our Milky Way Galaxy.

Illustration of NASA's Kepler space telescope.

"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", Zurbuchen continued.

Nevertheless, NASA has more than 60 operational science missions right now, a "golden age of NASA science" according to Hertz.

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K2 enabled researchers to discover many planets, concluding that planets are extremely common.

"Basically, Kepler opened the gate for mankind's exploration of the cosmos", William Borucki, Kepler's now-retired chief investigator, told reporters. After a while, they managed to turn it on again and gather more scientific data, knowing that soon it would be time to bid farewell to the Kepler space telescope.

In its nine years in space, Kepler helped scientists spot potential planets by observing transits, or the moment when a space object passes in front of a star.

"The search for planets is the search for life", said Natalie Batalha, a longtime Kepler mission scientist now at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during a conference in 2017. Kepler watched the very beginning of exploding stars, or supernovae, to gain unprecedented insight about stars and witnessed the death of a solar system.

Scientists are expected to spend at least another decade searching for more discoveries buried in the pile of photometric data that Kepler has captured.

"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. TESS has just begun its survey of nearly the entire night sky, looking for exoplanets orbiting some of the brightest and closest stars.

NASA has experienced a series of spacecraft problems lately.

TESS will short-list the distant worlds through most likely to be harbor life - with subsequent follow-up using JWST instrumentation and the coming generation of 30 m-class ground telescopes to look for signs of life. 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.

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