The Kepler mission has ended

Mindy Sparks
November 5, 2018

Yes, after nine years exploring deep space, NASA's spacecraft and telescope will now be another piece of historical space junk.

An artist's concept of NASA's Kepler spacecraft.

"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".

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

By looking out into the galaxy, and feeding back an ongoing stream of stellar data, Kepler brought us closer to the stars than any spacecraft, and stirred the desire for cosmic understanding among professional and amateur alike. The spacecraft, with a 1.4-meter diameter telescope, discovered almost 3000 exoplanets and many potential candidates that are still awaiting confirmation.

According to NASA, that means they are located at distances from their stars where liquid water, a vital ingredient for life as we know it, could accumulate on the surface of the planet.

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.

The information received from Kepler was made accessible to the public and resulted in a phenomenal explosion in citizen science - hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world helped sift through the data, revealing exoplanets that others (and other computers) had missed. 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.

This illustration depicts NASA's exoplanet hunter, the Kepler space telescope. Indeed, one challenge for astronomers who want to study the properties of Kepler planets is that Kepler itself is often the best instrument to use.

"Now, that we know there are exoplanets everywhere, Kepler Space Telescope has put us on a new path full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy", Kepler principal investigator William Borucki, founder of the Kepler Space Telescope mission, said in the statement.

The MAST will also host the data that will be collected by NASA's next great space observatory and Kepler's successor, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or TESS. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), whose launch has been delayed to 2021, will be capable of studying the atmospheres of planets discovered by TESS and identifying their chemical compositions.

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