- NASA’s Kepler space telescope will be retired after running out of fuel nine years after its initial launch.
- Currently orbiting the sun 156 million km from the earth, the spacecraft will drift further from the earth once its radio transmitters are turned off.
- About Kepler space telescope :
- The telescope launched in March 2009, with an initial mission that was scheduled to last 3½ years.
- Its first assignment was to focus on about 150,000 stars clustered in the constellation Cygnus.
- The Kepler telescope discovered more than 2,600 of the roughly 3,800 exoplanets ( the planets outside our solar system).
- Kepler mission searched for Earth-like planets and the probe’s camera measured changes in the brightness of 150,000 stars in one patch of sky to identify alien planets, including ones that could potentially be inhabited by humans.
- The telescope also discovered a new class of previously unknown planets: super-Earths, which are bigger than our planet but smaller than Neptune.
- The telescope showcased the diversity of planets that reside in our Milky Way galaxy, with findings indicating that distant star systems are populated with billions of planets, and even helped pinpoint the first moon known outside our solar system.
- Kepler will always have the distinction of being the first space telescope to prove that planets are abundant in the universe.
- New Space Telescopes:
- The next-generation planet hunter space telescope for NASA, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in April 2018 will survey far more cosmic terrain than Kepler. It will focus on nearby exoplanets, those in the range of 30 to 300 light-years away or about 10 times closer than most of the stars surveyed by Kepler.
- Future missions, including the James Webb Space Telescope, will further investigate these planets to see whether there are any indications of life.