News / Science & Technology

Kepler Telescope's Planet-hunting Days End

Artist's rendering of the Kepler Space Telescope in orbit. (NASA)
Artist's rendering of the Kepler Space Telescope in orbit. (NASA)
TEXT SIZE - +
Rosanne Skirble
NASA is ending its attempts to restore the Kepler Space Telescope to full working order. The US space agency will now focus on analyzing the data collected over the past four years as the spacecraft searched for Earth-like planets around other stars in our galaxy.

Launched in 2009, Kepler’s mission was to find Earth-sized planets in or near the habitable zone, the region around a sun-like star where liquid water can exist on the surface of the planet. The mission’s principal investigator said Kepler has been spectacularly successful.
 
“At the beginning of the mission, no one knew whether Earth-sized planets were abundant or rare in our galaxy. Now at the completion of the Kepler observations, we know that our galaxy is filled to the brim with planets," William Borucki said. "It’s likely when you look up at the sky at night and see the sky covered with stars, most of the stars have planets."

Kepler Telescope's Planet-Hunting End
Kepler Telescope's Planet-Hunting Endi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

Kepler discovered 135 planets and over 3,500 planet candidates with a wide range of sizes and orbital distances. Most of these planets are small, like the Earth. 
Cluster of stars in Kepler's sight. (NASA)Cluster of stars in Kepler's sight. (NASA)
x
Cluster of stars in Kepler's sight. (NASA)
Cluster of stars in Kepler's sight. (NASA)
The four-year mission was extended in 2012, but ended last week after engineers failed to repair two broken reaction wheels necessary to precisely point the spacecraft. Deputy project manager Charles Sobeck says the decision was obvious.

“The wheels are sufficiently damaged that they cannot sustain spacecraft pointing control for any extended period of time,” said Sobeck.   

With its observational capability compromised, the Kepler team is looking into whether the space telescope can conduct a different type of mission, potentially including an exoplanet search, using the two operational reaction wheels and thrusters. NASA has called on the science community for ideas.

“They are not proposals. They are not asking for funds," Borucki said. "They are suggesting ideas and we look at them [and ask], 'Which of these would be practical? Which of these could we do at a reasonable cost?'”

Kepler’s scientific mission is not over. The scientific team is now focusing on data collected by the spacecraft over the past four years, which Borucki expects will yield hundreds if not thousands of new discoveries.

“And so basically in the next few years when we complete this analysis we will be able to answer the questions that inspired the Kepler mission: Are Earths common or rare in our galaxy?” he said.

Borucki sees Kepler’s journey is a “critical first step in the exploration of our galaxy.” NASA is scheduled to launch a follow-up mission to Kepler in 2017. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will look for larger, brighter planets closer to our solar system than Kepler did.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid