After nine years in orbit, Kepler Space Telescope leaves legacy of discovery

Spacewatch: Nasa retires planet hunter after it runs out of fuel

NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope retires after nine years exploring space

"We are announcing today that NASA's Kepler telescope, which is hunting for new planets, more than enough fuel". And now scientists hope to find alien life in next decade. These data will enable new scientific discoveries for years to come.

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.

"Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm".

"When we started conceiving this mission 35 years ago we didn't know of a single planet outside our solar system", said the Kepler mission's founding principal investigator, William Borucki.

What Kepler found during its lifetime could be a guide not only in the continuing search for exoplanets, but the search for anything alive beyond Earth. To date, Kepler has discovered a total of 2,818 exoplanets and another 2,679 candidates waiting for further explorations.

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According to NASA, that means they are located at distances from their stars where liquid water, a vital ingredient for life as we know it, could accumulate on the surface of the planet. This puts the dwarf planet in the growing category of ocean worlds being discovered in our solar system that could potentially host microbial life. 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.

Since it was launched in 2009, Kepler has aided astronomers around the world in the hunt for planets outside of the solar system similar to Earth and orbiting other stars. "There were definitely challenges, but Kepler had an extremely talented team of scientists and engineers who overcame them". We are not so alone; in fact, based on the findings of Kepler, it is now estimated that there are more planets than stars in our galaxy.

Kepler was succeeded by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which was launched in April for a two-year, $337 million (€295 million) mission. The new mission was dubbed K2.

And those high-profile finales come in the midst of a spree of other spacecraft troubles: the Opportunity rover on Mars remains silent almost five months after a planet-engulfing dust storm, and the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory were both briefly offline in October.

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