Our quest for discovering the world other than the one present in our universe has led to the creation and revelation of multiple astonishing devices and theories. From the discovery of supernovas to landing on the surface of Mars, humans seem more than determined to find something invaluable to the mankind in outer space. One couch connection in the series of exploratory equipment and inventions is NASA’s Kepler Planet-Hunting Space telescope- and what a remarkable lifetime this telescope has witnessed. Dive in to read more about one of NASA’s most beloved telescopes.
The remarkable era of planet hunting by NASA’s Kepler space telescope comes an end after spending 9 years in space. Kepler is not only responsible for its innumerable exoplanet discoveries but has also collected an extraordinary dataset for scientists to change the way we think about life outside the Earth.
Since its launch in 2009, Kepler has discovered over 3,800 exoplanets to date, revealing that there are way more planets than stars in the galaxy. The spacecraft has been a gateway for discoveries that humanity had never ever thought of before, including the cosmos, the existence of Earth-like habitats in space and that the entire planetary system is beyond our limited thinking of imagination.
The End of an Era?
According to NASA’s official announcement on October 30th, Kepler is set to be decommissioned as the machine has run out of fuel. Agency further added that, the prolific space telescope could no longer direct itself to study cosmic objects and carry out space missions. This news, however, did not came as a shock. Kepler has been facing the fuel shortage since last year, and mission managers have constantly put it on sleep time to time to extend its life as much as possible. However, nothing much can be done presently since scientists have run out of all the possible means of keeping Kepler functional. To say that decommissioning Kepler as the end of an era is truly justified since no other telescope will ever match the magnificence of this pioneering space-exploratory telescope.
Walk-through into the History
Kepler has always been a machine of much interest and attention for scientists and astronomers. The good news is that Kepler managed to put up with the expectations of mankind and delivered more than what was expected from it. Kepler’s revolutionary discoveries began in March 2009, on its first mission into the Milky Way. Initially, it studied about 150,000 stars on just a small patch of sky, yielding 2,327 confirmed exoplanet sightings over the years. Scientists believe that Kepler’s sign off may not mark the end of an era, but the beginning of a revolution.
Here is a brief look at Kepler’s breath-taking journey across cosmos:
- This theory enabled the potential for finding habitats outside Earth- the efforts for which began in 1983 by William Borucki through his technique ‘transit photometry’.
- Later in 1992, Borucki and his team submitted a proposal for a three-year mission into space, which was approved far along in 2001 with the name Kepler after a couple of modifications and four rejections.
- 8 years and many developments later in 2009, Kepler went into space from Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida.
- Kepler’s first view happened in April 2009 in Cygnus where the telescope captured more than 170,000 stars in a patch of sky.
- In Jan 2010, it discovered the first five planets ever near Jupiter.
- Kepler -10b, first rocky planet came under view in 2011.
- Later 2011, discovery of a planet orbiting around double stars and first habitable planet.
- In 2013, Kepler found three new habitable planets called -62e, -62f and -69c.
- In 2014, Kepler revealed first planet in a habitable zone that was the size of the Earth.
- Kepler’s chief William Borucki retired after 53 years in 2015.
- In 2016, Kepler’s tally of exoplanet discovery reaches record 1200.
- 2017, Kepler brought in historical data from its missions including 4034 planets out of which 2335 were confirmed.
- April 2018, Kepler’s replacement, TESS launches into space using all techniques forged by Kepler.
- October 2018, the odyssey of Kepler ends.
The Future is Now
While some people are adamant to picture the decommissioning of Kepler Planet-hunter telescope as the end of an era, scientists and astronomers are determined to prove how it is the start of a new era actually. Whatever may the results be, one thing is certain that we will be seeing more of such objects in near future and who knows we might end up discovering aliens.