This oil portray depicts Kepler amongst a few of the many exoplanets it helped astronomers uncover. 

NASA/Wendy Stenzel/Daniel Rutter

NASA’s Kepler House Telescope, which launched in 2009 and revolutionized our imaginative and prescient of the galaxy and the universe over the previous decade, is now completely retired and out of service. 

The area company first noticed indicators Kepler was operating out of gasoline earlier this 12 months and final week the telescope went right into a low-fuel sleep mode. NASA stated Tuesday that the spacecraft will not be waking up.

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“Science operations are over,” NASA astrophysics division director Paul Hertz informed reporters on a convention name.

He famous that Kepler was capable of verify scientists’ suspicions that area is crammed with planets just like Earth. Kepler’s catalog of confirmed planets past our photo voltaic system consists of over 2,600 worlds and dozens that would probably assist alien life. Whereas the telescope is finished amassing new information, Hertz says astronomers are nonetheless working with what’s been collected over time.

“Kepler information will proceed to yield scientific discoveries for years to come back.”  

When the spacecraft’s “low gasoline gentle” got here on earlier this 12 months, the Kepler workforce started to take measures to make sure that all remaining information could possibly be recovered and downloaded earlier than it went darkish for good. 

“Ultimately we did not have a drop of gasoline leftover for the rest,” stated Kepler challenge system engineer Charlie Sobeck.

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Kepler had already been working on borrowed time for years after one of many craft’s response wheels, which assist it level at its goal stars, started to fail in 2012. Engineers got here up with a method to make use of strain from daylight itself to stabilize and level Kepler, and the brand new tailored mission, dubbed K2, went on to find extra planets for one more half decade. 

“Once we began conceiving this mission 35 years in the past we did not know of a single planet exterior our photo voltaic system,” stated the Kepler mission’s founding principal investigator, William Borucki, now retired, in a information launch. “Now that we all know planets are in all places, Kepler has set us on a brand new course that is stuffed with promise for future generations to discover our galaxy.”

One in every of Kepler’s successors is at present in area and looking for new planets. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite tv for pc has already noticed its first pair of Earth-like planets and can proceed to catalog dozens extra. The hope is that the upcoming James Webb House Telescope (a supersize, 21st century follow-up to Hubble) will be capable of take a a lot nearer look and maybe even search for indicators of life on the worlds that TESS and Kepler have pointed us towards. 

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