Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The Kepler space telescope was retired yesterday after nine highly successful years as mankind’s most successful planet-hunting observatory that’s also surveyed more than 500,000 stars,
Launched on March 6, 2009, Kepler was deactivated yesterday (Oct. 30) when its mission ended due to a lack of fuel needed for further science operations. NASA said it decided to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth.
Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 exoplanet discoveries from outside our Solar System. Many of these exoplanets might be promising places for life to thrive and flourish.
“As NASA’s 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 of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
“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. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars.”
Kepler’s discoveries have shed a new light on mankinbd’s place in the Universe. It’s also illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars.
The most recent 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) exoplanets similar in size to Earth. These exoplanets are also located within the habitable zone, also called the Goldilocks Zone, of their parent stars.
This discovery means these exoplanets are located at distances from their parent stars where liquid water — a vital ingredient to life as we know it — might exist on the planet surface.
When it was launched in 2009, the Kepler space telescope combined cutting-edge techniques in measuring stellar brightness. It was equipped with the largest digital camera outfitted for outer space observations at that time.
Kepler was originally positioned to stare non-stop at 150,000 stars in one star-studded patch of the sky in the constellation Cygnus. It 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.
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