NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope retires after nine years exploring space

NASA image of star cluster discovered by Kepler

The unmanned space telescope, which launched in 2009, revealed that billions of hidden planets are in space and revolutionized humanity's understanding of the universe, experts said.

"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", Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement.

Kepler has retired from finding exoplanets that are orbiting distant stars, but the troves of data it has collected over the years will continue to help astronomers. The spacecraft continued to work past the limit researchers estimated but when it reached four years there was a mechanical problem that stopped it from running temporarily. These data will enable new scientific discoveries for years to come.

NASA recently announced that it has made a decision to end the mission of the Kepler space telescope, an instrument that has served to discover more than 2,600 exoplanets in the last nine years. That means that they are located at a distance from the stars that orbit where liquid water, a vital ingredient for life as we know it, can accumulate on the surface of these exoplanets. It explored an area of 150,000 stars in the Cygnus constellation. On October 30, 2018 NASA announced that Kepler had run out of fuel and would be decommissioned. This year the telescope had stopped from sending data back to Earth but it left behind a lot of new data discovery about thousands of planets found outside of our solar system. While spacecraft operations have ceased, its data will continue to be publicly available through the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) at the Space Telescope Science Institute. The fixes actually extended the life of the spacecraft, and allowed Kepler to survey more than 500,000 stars. 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.

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This image was spotted as part of Hubble mission to better understand how new stars are born.

One such planet, Kepler-186f, is very much like Earth. New research into stars with Kepler data also is furthering other areas of astronomy, such as the history of our Milky Way galaxy and the beginning stages of exploding stars called supernovae that are used to study how fast the universe is expanding.

Kepler is succeeded by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (Tess), which Nasa launched in April. TESS will follow in the footsteps of NASA's pioneering Kepler Mission, continuing the groundbreaking ...

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