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

‘Goodnight, Kepler’: NASA’s Planet-Hunting Telescope Has Finally Run Out Of Fuel

The Kepler space telescope, which has been exploring galaxies for almost a decade, is about to retire.

Earlier this year, NASA launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), so it won't run out of options to search for new planets.

The old telescope has been running low on fuel for the past months, so scientists were waiting for this moment to come, preparing to download all the data gathered in the last months.

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

The space telescope was nearly lost in 2013 when Kepler had a failure, but engineers found a way to fix it and help the mission carry on until this month.

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"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", remarked the Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, Thomas Zurbuchen. The telescope enabled scientists to discover thousands of exoplanets and created a strong foundation for future explorations of foreign worlds.

Kepler made incredible discoveries, revealing that there are more planets than stars in our galaxy.

Launched in 2009, Kepler literally transformed our view of what lay out there in space, confirming suspicions that space is jam-packed with planets very similar to Earth.

A successor to Kepler launched in April, NASA's Tess spacecraft, has its sights on stars closer to home. During its time, it discovered 2,600 planets. The engineers from ground control have sent a command to the spacecraft to turn its transmitters off as it drifts silently into deep space. New research into stars with Kepler data also is 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.

Calling Kepler's mission "stunningly successful", TESS project scientist Padi Boyd told AP that the retired telescope has shown us that "we live in a galaxy that's teeming with planets". "It was like trying to detect a flea crossing a vehicle headlight when the auto was 100 miles away", William Borucki, the former principal investigator of Kepler, said in a press conference. It found inferno-like gas giants, rocky planets, planets orbiting binary stars, Earth-size planets, planets in the habitable zone capable of supporting liquid water on the surface, planets twice the size of Earth, the strangely flickering Tabby's Star, new details about the TRAPPIST-1 planetsand, in December, an eight-planet system. They dubbed this new mission K2, which found another 354 planets, with 473 additional candidates awaiting confirmation today. Several other exoplanet-hunting missions are expected to start in the future, including one using the James Webb Space Telescope, which will succeed both the Kepler and the Hubble Space Telescope. JWST will take pictures in infrared light, which is invisible to human eyes yet flawless for studying planets through the clouds of gas and dust in space that typically obscure distant worlds.


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