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article imageRIP Kepler Space Telescope — Out of fuel and out of time

By Karen Graham     Oct 30, 2018 in Science
NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which launched in 2009 and revolutionized our vision of the galaxy and the universe over the past decade, is now permanently retired and out of service.
NASA officially bid farewell to the Kepler Space Telescope this afternoon, writing the spacecraft had run out of fuel needed for further science operations. NASA has decided to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth.
"Science operations are over," NASA astrophysics division director Paul Hertz told reporters on a conference call. In speaking of Kepler's legacy, Hertz added, "Kepler data will continue to yield scientific discoveries for years to come."
This artist’s concept illustrates the two Saturn-sized planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler missi...
This artist’s concept illustrates the two Saturn-sized planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission. The star system is oriented edge-on, as seen by Kepler, such that both planets cross in front, or transit, their star, named Kepler-9. This is the first star system found to have multiple transiting planets.
Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
Launched from Cape Canaveral on March 7th, 2009, NASA's Kepler telescope has helped in the search for planets outside the solar system (called exoplanets). In its short life, Kepler has discovered 70 percent of the 3,750 exoplanets known to date.
In March this year, Charlie Sobeck, system engineer for the Kepler space telescope mission, said that NASA knew Kepler was reaching the point where it would run out of fuel. "We expect to reach that moment within several months," he said, adding, "Our current estimates are that Kepler's tank will run dry within several months."
NASA s Kepler mission has discovered a world where two suns set over the horizon instead of just one...
NASA's Kepler mission has discovered a world where two suns set over the horizon instead of just one. The planet, called Kepler-16b, is the most "Tatooine-like" planet yet found in our galaxy and is depicted here in this artist's concept with its two stars.
NASA/JPL-Caltech
A marvel of engineering
The $600 million Kepler mission found alien worlds using the "transit method," picking up on tiny brightness dips caused when orbiting planets cross a star's face - as seen from Kepler's perspective. “It was like trying to detect a flea crawling across a car headlight, when the car was 100 miles away,” William Borucki, retired Kepler principal investigator said in a press conference today.
The artist s concept depicts Kepler-69c  a super-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a star l...
The artist's concept depicts Kepler-69c, a super-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a star like our sun, located about 2,700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.
Via NASA
Between Kepler's original mission and the K-2 followup mission, the space telescope discovered the existence of 2,681 planets and identified many more blips around distant stars that could be planets but are still awaiting confirmation, reports The Verge.
"When we started conceiving this mission 35 years ago, we didn't know of a single planet outside our solar system," said Borucki. "Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that's full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy."
The Kepler Space Telescope gave us mere earthlings an incredable view of the universe we reside in, with images of planetary systems thousands of light years agway. Somehow, while feeling like such a small part of the universe, Kepler made it far more interesting.
More about nasajlp, Kepler space telescope, Kepler's legacy, planethunter, Science
 
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