NASAs Kepler Space Telescope is finally officially retired after nine years in service, observing 500,000 stars and discovering thousands of planets around them, TechCrunch reported. In the event of fuel depletion, it will drift in safe orbit, and its vast database of data will continue to help drive discoveries on Earth.
After decades of preparation, research and delay, the Kepler telescope was launched in 2009. It is scheduled to run for three and a half years, aiming to keep an eye on a small piece of the sky and observe minute changes in each star that may indicate that a planet will temporarily block its light. The mission was an unexpected success, and when the telescope was put into use, it began to produce tens of thousands of exoplanet data. Some planets are closer to Earth than astronomers expected, suggesting that rocky planets similar in size to Earth are not so rare.
In 2014, the initial mission of the Kepler telescope was successfully completed, but it is still in good working order, largely due to its strong structure and fuel-efficient use. Unlike the first mission, which was named K2, the Kepler telescope shifted its sights to a new location every three months rather than staring at a single sky for years. Naturally, the number of stars observed and catalogued is rising linearly.
The Kepler telescope, however, did not operate intact. It lost one of the four reaction wheels that helped reorient the telescope under the action of the sun and other forces. Fortunately, however, its design supports its continued work under incomplete reaction wheels. But then another reaction wheel also failed, which led to the strict use of K2.
Without a reaction wheel to change its direction on all three axes, Kepler would have to burn valuable fuel every time it needed to change its view or rotate to send data back to Earth. Whether or not there is fuel, Kepler telescope is still collecting data in large quantities. Scientists have confirmed that in a period of time, it has found more than 1,200 exoplanets, and artificial intelligence tools like Google are trying to find other planets hidden in noisy data.
But the Kepler telescopes mission is finally over. It uses its last stored fuel to maneuver to its intended location, sending the last batch of data as a relay through the Deep Space Network. As always, the new data will soon be available to civic scientists, research organizations and NASAs own team.
As for the search for exoplanets, the transit exoplanet survey satellite (TESS), launched earlier this year, is already operational. We have every reason to believe that it will be as effective as its predecessor and perhaps perform better. William Borucki, the retired chief researcher on the Kepler Project, said: Thirty-five years ago, when we started thinking about this mission, we didnt know there were other planets outside our solar system. Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has opened up a new way for us to explore our galaxies for our children and grandchildren. Kepler has completed his last task, and now he has entered his deserved retirement. The Cassini probe eventually crashed into Saturn and formed a new crater on its surface, a sudden and brilliant end. Unlike Cassini, the Kepler telescope will be in Earth-like orbit at a distance from its parent star, likely to remain stable for many years to come, unless it is hit by cosmic debris, but the likelihood is slim. Source: NetEase science editor: Wang Fengzhi _NT2541
Kepler has completed his last task, and now he has entered his deserved retirement. The Cassini probe eventually crashed into Saturn and formed a new crater on its surface, a sudden and brilliant end. Unlike Cassini, the Kepler telescope will be in Earth-like orbit at a distance from its parent star, likely to remain stable for many years to come, unless it is hit by cosmic debris, but the likelihood is slim.