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 that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that is full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy", Kepler mission founding principal investigator William Borucki said in the release.
K2 lasted as long as the first mission, allowing Kepler to survey more than 500,000 stars total.
As of today, Kepler has detected 2,681 confirmed planets, plus 2,899 other candidates yet to be confirmed, said Kepler project scientist Jessie Dotson. "Some of those, in fact, might be actual water worlds". This is the first star system found to have multiple transiting planets. "Imagine what life might be like on such planets". "This is not unexpected, and this marks the end of spacecraft operations for Kepler and the end of the collection of science data".
"I think we were all extremely impressed with what it was doing for us", Borucki said of Kepler. Many of these designs talk about looking at maybe only a 100 or 50 stars - so we need the information as to what kind of stars/ What kind of planets?
Stylized artwork shows NASA's Kepler space telescope among planetary systems.
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Kepler was launched atop its United Launch Alliance Delta II (7925-10L) rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 17B on March 7, 2009.
"But what was just as unbelievable to me was the implications, contacts, and conversations I had over the years with others about religion, life, the universe, and our home planet Earth", Howell added.
The spacecraft's camera was not created to take pictures like other space telescopes. That is, a small dip in the light from a star as the planet passed in front of it.
"It was like trying to detect a flea crawling across a auto headlight when the vehicle was 100 miles away", said Borucki said.
Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 exoplanet discoveries from outside our Solar System.
The telescope's findings indicate that distant star systems are populated with billions of planets, and it even helped pinpoint the first moon known outside our solar system. On May 11, 2013, a second wheel (wheel 4) also failed. Engineers tried to find a workaround, but they were not successful.
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On Tuesday, October 30, 2018 it was announced that Kepler had run out of fuel and that its mission had concluded.
"While this may be a sad event, we are by no means unhappy with the performance of this marvelous machine. Kepler's nine-and-a-half-year flight was more than twice the original target".
As it orbits some 156 million kilometres from Earth, Keplar's radio transmitters will soon be turned off by mission engineers and the spacecraft will be left to drift forever around the sun. "It always did everything we asked of it, and sometimes more".
Kepler found over two-third of the roughly 3,800 exoplanets that have been documented in the past two decades. He's excited for what we may one day learn about the Kepler-444 system in particular, he said.
Every bit of scientific data collected by Kepler was transmitted to scientists on Earth, and exciting discoveries based on the last bits of data are yet to come, NASA said.
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