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NASA's Kepler telescope retires after finding thousands of worlds

NASA's legendary Kepler space telescope has retired after running out of fuel needed for further science operations, bringing an end…

NASA’s legendary Kepler space telescope has retired after running out of fuel needed for further science operations, bringing an end to a prolific nine-and-a-half year mission in which it discovered over 2,600 intriguing exoplanets, some of which may harbor life, the US space agency said.

Data collected from Kepler’s deep space missions indicates that our sky is filled with billions of hidden planets – more than the stars, NASA said in a statement.

The unmanned space telescope, launched in 2009, leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 planet discoveries from outside our solar system, many of which could be promising places for life, the US space agency said.

“If NASAs 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, “said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator or NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

Only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked a completely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm, “Zurbuchen said.

” Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place

The most recent, in the universe 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, planet similar in size to Earth, and located within the habitable zone of their parent stars.

That means they are located at distances from their parent stars where liquid water &#821

1; a vital ingredient to life as we know it – might pool on the planet surface, NASA said.

The most common size of planet Kepler found does not exist in Our solar system – a world between the size of Earth and Neptune – and we have much to learn about these planets, according to the US space agency.

Kepler also found nature produces often jam-packed planetary systems, in some cases with so many planets orbiting close to their parent stars that our own inner solar system looks sparse by comparison.

“When we started conceiving this mission 35 years ago, we did not know of a single planet outside our solar system,” said the kepler missi On the founding principal investigator, William Borucki, now retired from NASA’s Ames Research Center.

“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,” Borucki said.

Launched on March 6, 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 150,000 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 the agency’s first mission to detect Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of their stars.

“The Kepler Mission was based on a very innovative design. Leslie Livesay, director of astronomy and physics at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who served as Kepler project manager during mission development.

“There were definitely challenges, but Kepler had an extremely talented team of scientists and engineers who overcame them, “Livesay said.

The mission team was able to two years in the mission, after the primary mission goals had been with, mechanical failures temporarily halted observations. devised 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 500,000 .

The observation of so many stars has allowed scientists to better understand stellar behaviors and properties, which is critical information in studying the planets that orbit them.

New research into stars with Kepler data also furthering other areas of astronomy, such as the history of our Milky Way galaxy and the beginning stages of exploding stars called supernovae that are used to study how fast the universe is expanding ,

Scientists are expected to spend a decade or more in search of new discoveries in the treasure trove of data Kepler provided.

“We know the spacecraft’s retirement is not the end of Kepler’s discoveries,” said Jessie Dotson, Kepler’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center .

Before retiring the spacecraft, scientists pushed Kepler to its full potential, successfully completing multiple observation campaigns and downloading valuable science data even after initial Warnings of low fuel.

The latest data, from Campaign 19, will complement the data from NASA’s newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in April.

TESS builds on Kepler’s foundation with fresh batches of data in its search of planets orbiting some 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to the Earth, worlds that can later be explored for signs of life by missions such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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