The Planet Telescope, which has detected nearly 70% of all worlds in the last nine years, closed its eyes and fell asleep again. The telescope has little fuel and has been wintering for the past several months to make sure it has enough fuel to fly to Earth and send the latest data home.
Data transfer is a difficult task – Kepler and other NASA spacecraft must use a limited time window to send data to NASA's Deep Space Network.
Exactly as planned, Kepler's data arrived on Earth in early August. On August 24, the telescope went back to sleep. Members of the mission team had a bleak update on the future of the telescope:
"It's unclear how much fuel is still on board, NASA is studying the health of the spacecraft and determining a number of options and next steps." [1
The $ 600 Million Kepler Telescope Launched in March 2009 See how many planets like Earth are in our galaxy. The telescope found planets looking at the brightness of the stars as they crossed their faces. The mission ended in May 2013, when the second (out of four) orientation-maintaining reaction wheel failed and Kepler could not continuously monitor the 150,000 stars it had seen so far.
The team members found a way to stabilize the target observatory with sunlight pressure, and so began the second mission – K2. Kepler began with "campaigns," some even for 80 days, observing cosmic phenomena and objects from space and planets. So far, 18 campaigns have been carried out.
So far, Kepler has discovered 2,652 exoplanets, of which 325 were found in the K2 mission.
Unfortunately, Kepler is not being repaired or refueled by spacewalking astronauts, as they did with Hubble Space's Telescope, because the exoplanet fighter is too far away from our planet.
The good news is that TESS has just started what Kepler started in 2009. Further information about TESS can be found here.
Rex Austin was born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. In addition to his own podcast (ice fishing and other "cool" things), he spends his time paddling and backpacking in Northern Ontario. As a journalist, Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay), as well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex covers most science and health stories. Contact Rexhere