The Kepler space telescope shuts down

The Kepler space telescope shuts down

Drafting.

Imagined 35 years ago, at a time when no planet was known outside the Solar System, the Kepler space telescope Its mission was to discover planets similar to Earth, that is, of comparable size, rocky and not gaseous, and at a distance neither too close nor too far from its star.

It is the distance at which liquid water could, as on Earth, be present on the surface, and therefore capable of housing life.

Launched in 2009, the telescope was named after the German astronomer Johannes kepler

The telescope pointed to two constellations of the Milky Way, the Cygnus and the Lyre, with millions of stars in their objective and in an extraordinary resolution for the moment of their conception.

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His lens was so sensitive that he could detect the slightest drop in the intensity of light caused by the passage of a planet in front of its star.

In January 2010 he discovered the first five planets, called Kepler-4b, 5b, etc. But they turned out to be gaseous. The first rocky planet was announced in January 2011, the Kepler-10b.

This one is so close to its star that one of its faces is probably melting, turned into a world of lava.

The first habitable planet is number 22b, which could contain liquid water. And in 2014, finally, the first real cousin of Earth, number 186f, at 580 light years.

Hundreds of discoveries continued to revolutionize our knowledge of the galaxy, confirming that the land it is not, ultimately, a galactic exception.

The telescope has also made strange discoveries, such as systems in which up to eight planets crowd in a compact orbit around its star. Or the planet Kepler-16b, which revolves around two stars and where, as in Tatooine, a fictional planet of Star Wars, the inhabitants could attend a double sunset … if it was not gaseous.

– Final announced –

As happens when a leading scientist dies, Kepler's tributes immediately arose.

"He not only showed us how many planets could exist in space, but he also opened up a completely new and serious field of research that took the scientific community by storm," he said. Thomas Zurbuchen, director of the Scientific Research Division of NASA.

And as with some deaths, Kepler's was not really a surprise. In 2013, mechanical problems precipitated the end of the telescope's original mission, which initially only lasted three and a half years. But NASA engineers found a system to continue stabilizing it in order to keep it running.

A few weeks ago, the fuel fell to a very low level. Kepler has solar panels, but these only power their electronic devices on board.

The telescope carried 12 kilograms of fuel in 2009 for its engine, which was used to correct drifts and control the orbit, and engineers knew that the mission could not last forever.

The telescope, now switched off, will remain in its orbit, said NASA. In about forty years, its orbit will bring it closer to Earth, but without running the risk of crashing into it.

As for the search for exoplanets, the torch will be taken by NASA's TESS satellite, launched in April. But astronomers will probably spend years analyzing the images taken by Kepler to the end.

"Kepler transported us to a new adventure," said William Borucki, who was the first head of the mission.

THANKS TO KEPLER … Now we know that there are more planets than stars in the Milky Way. Most have a size between Earth and Neptune.

-Astronomers estimate that between 20% and 50% of the stars visible from Earth at night will probably have small Earths in their orbits at a distance where lakes and oceans can theoretically form. AFP

Imagined 35 years ago, at a time when no planet was known outside the Solar System, the Kepler Space Telescope had the task of discovering planets similar to Earth, that is, of comparable size, rocky and not gas, and at a distance too close or too far from your star.

It is the distance at which liquid water could, as on Earth, be present on the surface, and therefore capable of housing life.

Launched in 2009, the telescope was named after the German astronomer Johannes Kepler.

The telescope pointed to two constellations of the Milky Way, the Cygnus and the Lyre, with millions of stars in their objective and in an extraordinary resolution for the moment of their conception.

His lens was so sensitive that he could detect the slightest drop in the intensity of light caused by the passage of a planet in front of its star.

In January 2010 he discovered the first five planets, called Kepler-4b, 5b, etc. But they turned out to be gaseous. The first rocky planet was announced in January 2011, the Kepler-10b.

This one is so close to its star that one of its faces is probably melting, turned into a world of lava.

The first habitable planet is number 22b, which could contain liquid water. And in 2014, finally, the first real cousin of Earth, number 186f, at 580 light years.

Hundreds of discoveries continued to revolutionize our knowledge of the galaxy, confirming that the Earth is not, ultimately, a galactic exception.

The telescope has also made strange discoveries, such as systems in which up to eight planets crowd in a compact orbit around its star. Or the planet Kepler-16b, which revolves around two stars and where, as on Tatooine, a fictional planet of Star Wars, the inhabitants could attend a double sunset … if it was not gaseous.

– Final announced – As happens when a leading scientist dies, Kepler's tributes immediately arose.

"It not only showed us how many planets could exist in space, but it also opened up a completely new and serious field of research that took the scientific community by storm," said Thomas Zurbuchen, director of NASA's Scientific Research division.

And as with some deaths, Kepler's was not really a surprise. In 2013, mechanical problems precipitated the end of the telescope's original mission, which initially only lasted three and a half years. But NASA engineers found a system to continue stabilizing it in order to keep it running.

A few weeks ago, the fuel fell to a very low level. Kepler has solar panels, but these only power their electronic devices on board.

The telescope carried 12 kilograms of fuel in 2009 for its engine, which was used to correct drifts and control the orbit, and engineers knew that the mission could not last forever.

The telescope, now switched off, will remain in its orbit, said NASA. In about forty years, its orbit will bring it closer to Earth, but without running the risk of crashing into it.

As for the search for exoplanets, the torch will be taken by NASA's TESS satellite, launched in April. But astronomers will probably spend years analyzing the images taken by Kepler to the end.

"Kepler transported us to a new adventure," said William Borucki, who was the first head of the mission.

THANKS TO KEPLER … Now we know that there are more planets than stars in the Milky Way. Most have a size between Earth and Neptune.

-Astronomers estimate that between 20% and 50% of the stars visible from Earth at night will probably have small Earths in their orbits at a distance where lakes and oceans can theoretically form. AFP

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