Nasa to retire its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope

Nasa to retire its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope

Kepler's achievements have led us to a greater understanding of the universe, and has helped astronomers discover tremendous things, like the fact that there are more exoplanets than stars in the Milky Way galaxy. "Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars".

Called the transit method, Kepler would be able to spot an exoplanet if it saw a star momentarily dim, signifying a celestial body had crossed in front of the star.

NASA's Kepler spacecraft was launched in 2009 with the goal of finding planets beyond solar system.

"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 NASA Science Mission Directorate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen.

"That means they're 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".

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The founder of the Kepler mission, William Borucki, recalled that when this idea was conceived 35 years ago, humanity "did not know of a single planet" outside the solar system. After four years, a mechanical problem shut the project down, but NASA scientists determined that by periodically changing the camera's field of view they could get it back to work.

With the data collected by Kepler during its nine-year lifespan allowed scientists to visualize a more complete picture of worlds beyond our own.

It is reported that the spacecraft Kepler has exhausted its fuel and can no longer perform scientific operations. However, recently NASA's Kepler team received an indication that the spacecraft's fuel tank is nearly empty.

The Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes or MAST at the Space Telescope Science Institute will make the data accumulated over almost a decade of deep space observation available to the public. Many of these planets could be promising places for life.

These data will enable new scientific discoveries for years to come as scientists fully examine the data and augment it with additional observations. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development.

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