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05 November 2018, 03:14 | Edward Lowe
Kepler is dead. Now what
The space agency explained that Kepler has run out of fuel for other scientific operations and that, for that reason, NASA has chosen to remove the telescope within its current orbit, far from Earth. Perhaps some of these alien worlds would harbor odd forms of life or have unique and telling histories or futures.
Both spacecraft used chemical fuel to twist themselves back toward Earth and beam their findings home; without that fuel there was no way to learn from our distant emissaries. TESS's observing pattern, rather than staring at a single part of the sky, will scan almost the entire sky with overlapping fields of view (much like the petals on a flower).Duration of TESS's observations on the celestial sphere, taking into account the overlap between sectors.(Graphic: Nasa) Given what we learned from Kepler, astronomers expect TESS to find thousands more planetary systems.
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Years later and after overcoming mechanical failures, Kepler discovered more than 2,600 exoplanets and analyzed up to 50,000 stars, according to NASA calculations. After completing its primary mission within four years, the spacecraft was repurposed to look at other stars near the zodiacal constellations. To date, Kepler has discovered a total of 2,818 exoplanets and another 2,679 candidates waiting for further explorations. This puts the dwarf planet in the growing category of ocean worlds being discovered in our solar system that could potentially host microbial life. Some of these include rocky planets in their stars' habitable zones, where temperatures allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces.
Kepler, which launched in 2009, discovered 2,600 of the 4,000 confirmed exoplanets now known. The knowledge that there are planets scattered everywhere opens almost endless possibilities, and keeps pushing expectations for Kepler's successor TESS and other upcoming missions.
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"Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that's full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy". Meaning it found more planets lurking out there than even stars.
Kepler is succeeded by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (Tess), which Nasa launched in April. TESS builds on Kepler's foundation with fresh batches of data in its search of planets orbiting some 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to the Earth, worlds that can later be explored for signs of life by missions, such as NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. This enabled an extended mission for the spacecraft, dubbed K2, which lasted as long as the first mission and bumped Kepler's count of surveyed stars up to more than 500,000.
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