Published: Mon, November 05, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

After Nine Years In Orbit, Kepler Telescope Leaves A Legacy Of Discovery

After Nine Years In Orbit, Kepler Telescope Leaves A Legacy Of Discovery

NASA's prolific Kepler Space Telescope has run out of fuel, agency officials announced on October 30, 2018.

Scientists were surprised by evidence that Ceres could be geologically active, has chemistry that could support life, and may harbor a subsurface ocean or may have harbored one in its past.

The Kepler mission lasted more than 9 years. Now, however, the spacecraft has run out of its hydrazine fuel and officially entered retirement. An entirely new class of planets not present in our solar system, super-Earths with sizes between those of Earth and Neptune, is one of Kepler's most significant discoveries.

Closer to home, Dawn marked several firsts in robotic space exploration, including the first spacecraft to orbit two separate objects, the first to orbit any object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and the first science mission to use ion propulsion, a technology that gave the spacecraft additional velocity and enabled it to orbit Vesta, then depart, travel to Ceres and enter orbit around the dwarf planet. Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 exoplanet discoveries.

Kepler has opened our eyes to the diversity of planets that exist in our galaxy.

It discovered that around 20%-50% of start visible in the night sky are likely to have planets that may well be similar to Earth's own.

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"The Kepler mission was based on a very innovative design". It can see stars shake and vibrate; it can see starspots and flares; and, in favorable situations, it can see planets as small as the moon.Kepler's thousands of discoveries revolutionized our understanding of planets and planetary systems.

"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.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered everything from a cosmic bat shadow to a skull and crossbones nebula, so among all the spooky images it's nice to spot a friendly face. Although not confirmed, they may also be able to harbour liquid water - a vital ingredient to life. "There were definitely challenges, but Kepler had an extremely talented team of scientists and engineers who overcame them".

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.

With Kepler retiring after an illustrious planet-hunting career, a new telescope will take its place.

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