The space telescope Kepler has completed its work

Pat Wise
November 7, 2018

NASA's Kepler spacecraft was launched in 2009 with the goal of finding planets beyond solar system. Before Kepler, we had discovered just a few hundred exoplanets, but the technology of the Kepler, allowed scientists to add more than 2,600 exoplanets to our databases. 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. The telescope was able to send data for five years more, until now.

"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", says NASA Science Mission Directorate's associate administrator, Thomas Zurbuchen. Exoplanets are the stars which are said to be orbiting outside of the solar system.

NASA made an announcement in March 2018 about the spacecraft's fuel which was coming to an end, stopping the mission completely.

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This new telescope has laid with the bare of the diversity of planets which have to reside in our Milky Way galaxy.

Before retiring the spacecraft, scientists pushed Kepler to its full potential, successfully completing multiple observation campaigns and downloading valuable science data even after initial warnings of low fuel. The new mission was dubbed K2. Kepler focused on stars near the constellation of Cygnus and revealed, among other discoveries, that small planets are common in our galaxy. "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".

While the data collection phase for Kepler has ended, STScI's Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes will continue to make all data from the Kepler observatory available in perpetuity. The knowledge that there are planets scattered everywhere opens almost endless possibilities, and keeps pushing expectations for Kepler's successor TESS and other upcoming missions. During K2, the Kepler spacecraft continued gathering the data necessary to hunt for exoplanets, and has allowed researchers to study other astrophysical questions. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development.

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