Kepler space telescope 'retired' by NASA

This illustration made available by NASA shows the Kepler Space

"TESS builds on Kepler's foundation with fresh batches of data in its search of planets orbiting some 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to the Earth, worlds that can later be explored for signs of life", NASA said.

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.

But the telescope has now run out of the fuel needed for further operations. Without fuel, the Kepler team has made a decision to retire the spacecraft, though it will continue to drift along in orbit around Earth for the foreseeable future. But in August of 2018, the device has been turned on and off with a broken telescope Kepler found 44 previously unknown exoplanets. Kepler worked more than twice as long as expected, revolutionizing scientific understanding of planetary system formation along the way.

95MP camera Thomas Zurbuchen from NASA's Science Mission Directorate said in an administration release that Kepler had "wildly exceeded" expectations, and paved the way for the future search for extra-terrestrial life. "Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm".

"He added that "[the] discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars". In the span of nearly a decade, it found more than 2,600 habitable planets outside of the Solar System. If the transit occurs regularly, with the same frequency, we can conclude that it is not just randomly flying past a celestial body, a planet orbiting a parent star.

Kepler was able to detect light from stars, but NASA is also studying plans for space observatories that are capable of detecting light from planets.


Kepler's data also provided a new way to assess whether a planet had a solid surface, like Earth and Mars, or is gaseous, like Jupiter and Saturn. Hertz said that NASA does not provide any definitive list of how numerous planets discovered by Kepler might be Earth-like, but a scientific paper published several years ago listed 30.

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries", said Kepler project scientist Dr. Jessie Dotson, of NASA's Ames Research Center. "Kepler opened the gate for the exploration of the cosmos".

Nevertheless, NASA has more than 60 operational science missions right now, a "golden age of NASA science" according to Hertz.

"The search for planets is the search for life", said Natalie Batalha, a longtime Kepler mission scientist now at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during a conference in 2017.

Once TESS' discoveries are confirmed, they could prove vital to the work of NASA's upcoming and powerful James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is scheduled to launch sometime in 2021.

But in General, suggest astronomers, our milky way galaxy has at least 50 billion planets, of which at least 500 million can be suitable for life.

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