After finding thousands of planets, NASA's Kepler mission ends

After finding thousands of planets, NASA's Kepler mission ends

"Now, because of Kepler, what we think about the universe has changed", NASA astrophysics division director Paul Hertz told the Verge. Kepler was created to survey more than 100,000 stars in our galaxy to determine the number of sun-like stars that have Earth-size and larger planets, including those that lie in a star's 'habitable zone, ' a region where liquid water, and perhaps life, could exist. Launched in April, TESS will build on Kepler's planet-hunting legacy by searching for exoplanets around almost 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to Earth. Professor Lewis Dartnell from the University Of Westminster discusses Kepler's legacy.

'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.

The telescope laid bare the diversity of planets that reside in our Milky Way galaxy, with findings indicating that distant star systems are populated with billions of planets, and even helped pinpoint the first moon known outside our solar system.

"Before we launched Kepler, we didn't know if planets were common or rare in our galaxy", he said.

Nasa says Kepler's mission may be over but its discoveries will be studied for years to come.

Fuel supplies of Kepler ran out two weeks ago leaving the telescope unable to function.

When it comes to the planet quest, the next big thing on the horizon is the James Webb Space Telescope, which is now due for launch in 2021 and may be able to look for signs of life in the atmospheres of alien planets.

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, planets similar in size to Earth, and located within the habitable zone of their parent stars. TESS is created to survey about 200,000 stars across a wide stretch of sky in our celestial neighborhood, and identify prospects for further study.

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NASA's 11-year-old Dawn spacecraft is pretty much out of fuel after orbiting the asteroid Vesta as well as the dwarf planet Ceres. During its mission, Kepler found 2,681 confirmed planets and another 2,899 candidates, bringing its tally to 5,580.

Nasa said it has chose to retire the spacecraft "within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth".

Engineers managed to downlink all the final science data stored aboard the spacecraft before control was lost.

NASA's Kepler mission has discovered a world where two suns set over the horizon instead of just one.

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries", according to Jessie Dotson, Kepler's project scientist at the Ames Research Center.

For years, Kepler stared at a fixed area of the sky bridging the constellations Lyra and Cygnus to monitor about 150,000 stars for signs of planets. It began science operations in late July, as Kepler was waning, and is looking for planets orbiting 200,000 of the brightest nearby stars to Earth. The planet, called Kepler-16b, is the most "Tatooine-like" planet yet found in our galaxy and is depicted here in this artist's concept with its two stars. "There were definitely challenges, but Kepler had an extremely talented team of scientists and engineers who overcame them".

Four years into the mission, after the primary mission objectives had been met, some mechanical failures temporarily halted observations.

Since that time, NASA changed the craft's mission to adjust to the telescope's new normal, calling the updated mission K2.

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