Published: Fri, November 02, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

After 9 Years, NASA Finally Retires the Kepler Space Telescope

After 9 Years, NASA Finally Retires the Kepler Space Telescope

"Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that's full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy", said Borucki. Kepler worked more than twice as long as expected, revolutionizing scientific understanding of planetary system formation along the way. It began science operations in late July, as Kepler was waning, and is looking for planets orbiting 200,000 of the brightest nearby stars to Earth.

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"Kepler opened the gate for mankind's exploration of the cosmos."

". After 9 1/2 years in orbit, 530,506 stars observed and 2,662 planets around other stars discovered, the little spacecraft will be left to drift forever around the sun.

Originally positioned to stare continuously at 150,000 stars in one star-studded patch of the sky in the constellation Cygnus, Kepler took the first survey of planets in our galaxy and became NASA's first mission to detect Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of their stars.

The $700 million mission even helped to uncover past year a solar system with eight planets, just like ours.

Tess project scientist Padi Boyd called Kepler's mission "stunningly successful".

Scientists will continue to search for planets using the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched earlier this year, the James Webb Space Telescope now scheduled for launch in 2021, and future spacecraft. Water is considered a key ingredient for life.

Kepler's data is furthering many areas such as the history of the Milky Way galaxy, and the initial stages of supernovae (exploding stars), which are studied to determine how fast our universe is expanding. The distinction helped scientists zero in on potential Earth-like planets and better the odds for finding life.


The telescope is now scanning 85% of the night sky, staring down distant solar systems and hunting for small, rocky, Earth-like planets in the process.

The new spacecraft will focus on nearby exoplanets, those in the range of 30 to 300 light-years away. 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.

Researchers working on TESS expect to find at least 50 rocky, Earth-size worlds for scientists to scrutinize - perhaps double what Kepler has found.

However, later it turned out that Kepler-69c, more like Venus, and life on it, most likely, impossible.

The far more advanced James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to lift off in 2021, should be able to reveal more about planets' mass, density and the makeup of their atmosphere - all clues to habitability.

The Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory experienced technical problems earlier this month that have since been fully repaired. JWST will take pictures in infrared light, which is invisible to human eyes yet flawless for studying planets through the clouds of gas and dust in space that typically obscure distant worlds.

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