Spacewatch: Nasa retires planet hunter after it runs out of fuel

NASA  Ames  Wendy Stenzel

NASA Ames Wendy Stenzel

The most recent analysis of Kepler's findings concludes that between 20 and 50 percent of stars visible in the night sky are likely to have small, possibly rocky, planets similar in size to Earth and located within the habitable zone. of its 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. The space agency has finally chose to decommission Kepler, which has run out of fuel and closed its telescopic eyes forever, while it is still orbiting safely away from Earth.

"Kepler has exceeded all of our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond", Thomas Zurbuchen, deputy director of NASA's Science Missions Department, said in a statement.

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One such planet, Kepler-186f, is very much like Earth.

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries", says, Kepler's project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Jessie Dotson.

Four years into the mission, after the primary mission objectives had been met, some mechanical failures temporarily halted observations. These data will enable new scientific discoveries for years to come. However, all of Kepler's data has been and will continue to be publicly available at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) through the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) where it will continue to improve our understanding of the universe. During K2, the Kepler spacecraft continued gathering the data necessary to hunt for exoplanets, and has allowed researchers to study other astrophysical questions.

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NASA lauded the discoveries made by the spacecraft, many of which it said could be promising places for life. TESS will become the newest exoplanet hunter NASA will use to continue to survey the sky and discover new worlds.

Unlike Cassini, whose kamikaze plunge into Saturn was its final, fiery farewell to the universe, Kepler will get a decommissioning command beamed to it from the NASA team on Earth. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado, operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

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