Running on Empty: NASA's Kepler spacecraft pauses observations

Running on Empty: NASA's Kepler spacecraft pauses observations

Kepler Space Telescope of NASA, the spaceship which has found numerous exoplanets since the time it entered in space in 2009, is into the last phase of its working. The agency has been monitoring the Kepler spacecraft closely for signs of low fuel, and expects it to run out of fuel in the next few months.

NASA announced Friday that Kepler will be put in a hibernation-like state as fuel has become very low. Kepler's latest mission Since May 12, Kepler has been on its 18th observation campaign, staring at a patch of the sky towards the constellation of Cancer it previously studied in 2015. The second-look data will allow astronomers to verify or rule out exoplanet candidates found earlier and identify new candidates in the process. On August 2, the team will command the spacecraft to awaken from its no-fuel-use state and maneuver the spacecraft to the correct orientation so it can downlink the data. NASA in a statement said it put the planet exploration spacecraft into a "hibernation" safe mode and that a plan to reactivate it could burn whatever fuel remains.

For now, Kepler's team is concentrating on the downloading of data gathered during the spacecraft's most recent observation. If the maneuver and data download are successful, the team will begin Kepler's 19th observation campaign on August 6 with the spacecraft's remaining fuel.

Launched in 2009, the Kepler mission is specifically created to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.


During its mission, the Kepler suffered multiple issues.

NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley manages the Kepler mission and follow-up K2 mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Engineers figured out a way to stabilize Kepler using sunlight pressure, however, and in 2014, the spacecraft embarked on an extended mission known as K2.

But scientists now know that its life is coming to end very soon. What makes Tatooine one of the most weird exoplanets ever found is that it is orbiting two host stars which make it be a circumbinary planet.

Launched in 2009 with an objective to learn more about the number and frequency of planets in our galaxy, the telescope which is some 94 million miles away from Earth has continuously monitored over 150,000 stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region and has discovered over 4,600 planet candidates as per the data provided by NASA.

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