Kepler Telescope No Longer Involved in Space Research
Over the course of nine years, the telescope has discovered more than 2,600 exoplanets
Photo from nasa.gov website
NASA has retired its Kepler space telescope nine years after its launch, the agency reports.
The telescope has discovered more than 2,600 exoplanets. The data is still being studied. Some of the discovered exoplanets might be promising places for life.
The most recent analysis of Kepler’s discoveries concludes that 20 to 50 percent of the stars visible in the night sky are likely to have small, possibly rocky, planets similar in size to Earth, and located within the habitable zone of their parent stars. That means they are located at distances from their parent stars where liquid water, a vital ingredient to life as we know it, might pool on the planet surface.
“As NASA’s first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
NASA decided to retire the spacecraft within its safe orbit after it ran out of fuel. Kepler temporarily halted its observations in 2013 after mechanical failures.
The mission’s team, however, was able to fix the issues. The extended mission, named K2, lasted for four years and was able to survey more than 500 thousand stars in total.
“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. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars,” Zurbuchen said.
In April, NASA launched a new mission, TESS, to continue Kepler’s mission. TESS will explore around 200 thousand stars closest to the Earth to search new exoplanets with signs of life.