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)
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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid