Nasa to retire its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope

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Florida: After collecting deep space data for nine years the Nasa’s Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel needed for further science operations

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has decided to retire the Kepler which discovered more than 2,600 planets.

Working in deep space for nine years, Kepler discovered planets from outside the solar system. Many of these planets could be promising places for life. The spacecraft will be retired within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth, according to Nasa.

Analysis of Kepler’s Discoveries

A recent analysis of Kepler’s discoveries suggested that 20 to 50 per cent of the stars visible in the night sky were likely to have small, possibly rocky, planets similar in size to Earth, and located within the habitable zone of their parent stars, which means they’re located at distances from their parent stars where liquid water, a vital ingredient to life as we know it, might pool on the planet surface.

Launched on March 6 in 2009, the Kepler space telescope combined cutting-edge techniques in measuring stellar brightness with the largest digital camera outfitted for outer space observations at that time.

Originally positioned to stare continuously at 1,50,000 stars in one star-studded patch of the sky in the constellation Cygnus, Kepler took the first survey of planets in our galaxy and became Nasa’s first mission to detect Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of their stars.

Four years into the mission, after the primary mission objectives had been met, some mechanical failures temporarily halted observations. But the mission team managed to devise a fix, switching the spacecraft’s field of view roughly every three months.

This enabled an extended mission for the spacecraft, dubbed K2, which lasted as long as the first mission and bumped Kepler’s count of surveyed stars up to more than 5,00,000. Kepler’s more advanced successor is the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in April.

TESS builds on Kepler’s foundation with fresh batches of data in its search of planets orbiting some 2,00,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to the Earth.

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