Published: Fri, November 02, 2018
Sci-tech | By Spencer Schmidt

NASA bids goodbye to Kepler Space Telescope

NASA bids goodbye to Kepler Space Telescope

"I had no trouble believing that there were planets out there of all different kinds, so I had to wonder, why did it affect me so much when Kepler showed that there were lots of planets out there everywhere?" he said during the news conference. "Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars", said Zurbuchen.

"NASA's original planet hunter, the Kepler Space Telescope, has run out of fuel", said Paul Hertz, director of NASA's astrophysics division.

One of the big conclusions is that there may be well more planets than stars in the Milky Way, thanks to the number of multiple-planet systems found by Kepler.

NASA announced on Tuesday that the Kepler mission - which has transformed how we understand planets outside of our solar system - is officially over. "Before we launched Kepler, we didn't know if planets were common or rare in our galaxy".

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, was launched in April and started sending back science data this summer. The star system is oriented edge-on, as seen by Kepler, such that both planets cross in front, or transit, their star, named Kepler-9.

NASA's legendary Kepler space telescope, which is responsible for the discovery of thousands of freakish and intriguing exoplanets, has officially run out of fuel.

Now orbiting the sun 94 million miles (156 million km) from Earth, the spacecraft will drift further from our planet when mission engineers turn off its radio transmitters, the U.S. space agency said. It showed us rocky worlds the size of Earth that, like Earth, might harbour life.

The data revealed that planets are plentiful and diverse, planetary systems themselves are diverse, and small, rocky planets similar to Earth within the habitable zone of their stars are common, said Jessie Dotson, Kepler project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center.

Four years into the mission-after all primary objectives were met-mechanical failures temporarily halted Kepler's observations. However, while Kepler spent its prime mission looking at a single, very small region of the sky, TESS is performing an all-sky survey focused on the nearest and brightest stars.

The end of spacecraft operations means the end of new Kepler data, but project scientists said that the observations Kepler collected since its March 2009 launch will continue to be analyzed by astronomers for years to come, yielding new discoveries.

In a briefing with reporters, agency officials said that Kepler ended operations after exhausting the last of its hydrazine fuel used for attitude control.

Kepler confirmed a trove of 2,681 planets outside our solar system.

Nearly lost in 2013 because of equipment failure, Kepler was salvaged by engineers and kept peering into the cosmos, thick with stars and galaxies, ever on the lookout for dips in in the brightness of stars that could indicate an orbiting planet.

Kepler has revolutionised our understanding of the universe. "That was an wonderful diving catch", said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters.

Tess will mainly scout for planets in the Goldilocks zone of a star.

Nasa says Kepler's mission may be over but its discoveries will be studied for years to come.

NASA's Ames Research Center manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

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