Kepler Space Telescope Officially Retired After Running Out of Fuel

Histogram_Chart_of_Discovered_Exoplanets_as_of

Histogram_Chart_of_Discovered_Exoplanets_as_of

NASA's venerable Kepler space telescope, which discovered almost 2,700 exoplanets in distant star systems, has officially been retired after finally running out of fuel, the space agency wrote in a statement on Tuesday. Now, Nasa's hashtag "moreplanetsthanstars" says it all: the universe is home to more planets than stars, with billions of potentially habitable planets just in our own galaxy.

Now 94 million miles from Earth, Kepler should remain in a safe, stable orbit around the sun. The latest data from the Kepler Space Telescope's last mission, Campaign 19, will be used together with the data gathered by its replacement, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. If the transit occurs regularly, with the same frequency, we can conclude that it is not just randomly flying past a celestial body, a planet orbiting a parent star.

Illustration of NASA's Kepler space telescope. But Kepler's overall planet census showed that 20 percent to 50 percent of the stars visible in the night sky could have planets like ours in such a habitable zone for life, he said. During its time, it discovered 2,600 planets.

Kepler has opened our eyes to the diversity of planets that exist in our galaxy.

"Now, because of Kepler, what we think about the universe has changed", NASA astrophysics division director Paul Hertz told the Verge.

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

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"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 of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in a press release. The entire trove of scientific data that is collected has been transmitted back to Earth.

Before retiring Kepler, NASA pushed the telescope to its fullest potential, and successfully completed many observations and downloaded the valuable data, after initial low fuel warnings.

Toward the end of its first mission, two of Kepler's reaction wheels failed and the craft could no longer stabilize its instruments. Many of those planets gave astronomers hope there could be life outside of Earth.

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries", Kepler Project Scientist Jessie Dotson said. The engineers from ground control have sent a command to the spacecraft to turn its transmitters off as it drifts silently into deep space. When it launched in 2009, it was equipped with "the largest digital camera outfitted for outer space observations at that time", NASA wrote, and scientists on Earth had very limited knowledge of planets beyond the reach of the solar system.

The Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory experienced technical problems earlier this month that have since been fully repaired. "I'm excited about the diverse discoveries that are yet to come from our data and how future missions will build upon Kepler's results".

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