Kepler telescope declared dead after finding thousands of worlds


"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, said in a statement.

NASA has retired its Kepler space telescope, which discovered more than 2,600 planets outside our solar system during its nine-year lifespan.

Kepler made incredible discoveries, revealing that there are more planets than stars in our galaxy.

The most recent analysis of Kepler's discoveries concludes that 20 to 50 percent of the stars visible in the night sky are likely to have small (possibly rocky) exoplanets similar in size to Earth.

The latest data, from Campaign 19, will complement the data from Nasa's newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in April. Kepler was created to survey more than 100,000 stars in our galaxy to determine the number of sun-like stars that have Earth-size and larger planets, including those that lie in a star's 'habitable zone, ' a region where liquid water, and perhaps life, could exist.

NASA's legendary Kepler space telescope, which is responsible for the discovery of thousands of freaky and intriguing exoplanets, has officially run out of fuel.

Nasa said it has chose to retire the spacecraft "within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth".

NASA's astrophysics director Paul Hertz estimated that anywhere from two to a dozen of the planets discovered by Kepler are rocky and Earth-sized in the so-called Goldilocks zone.

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The $700 million mission led to the discovery of more than 2,600 of the roughly 3,800 exoplanets or planets outside our solar system that have been documented in the past two decades. "If life has been developing over six and a half billion years before Earth was formed, there may be some very interesting lifeforms for us to find as we search these early planets".

Four years into the mission, after the primary mission objectives had been met, some mechanical failures temporarily halted observations.

Kepler no longer had the ability to keep itself pointed in one direction after it lost the use of two reaction wheels in 2012 and 2013. After completing its initial mission, NASA tasked Kepler with its extended K2 mission, which resulted in the spacecraft having surveyed more than half a million stars.

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 has revolutionised our understanding of the universe.

Ms Dotson said commented: "Kepler's exoplanet legacy is absolutely blockbuster".

NASA's Kepler planet-hunting telescope now belongs to the ages, with its fuel completely spent and its instruments shut down - but the planet quest continues, thanks to a treasure trove of downloaded data as well as a new generation of robotic planet-hunters. Launched in April, TESS will build on Kepler's planet-hunting legacy by searching for exoplanets around almost 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to Earth. Borucki sought to develop what ultimately became Kepler for decades, eventually convincing NASA that a space telescope that could perform precise photometry of thousands of stars, needed to detect the brightness variations caused by transits, was feasible. In the lead-up to its impending retirement, "scientists pushed Kepler to its full potential" by preemptively powering down the spacecraft several times to extend its lifespan.