Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

NASA's Kepler Telescope almost out of fuel, forced to nap

NASA Kepler Space Telescope Venus like planet Kepler 1649 M dwarf stars SETI Institute NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre exoplanet discoveries new telescopes Science Science news The End Is Nigh for NASA's Planet-Hunting Kepler Space Telescope
Cary Marshall | 10 July, 2018, 14:44

Artist's concept of NASA's Kepler spacecraft. The Space agency on Saturday announced that the Kepler team received an indication of the spacecraft fuel tank running low which prompted the agency to put the spacecraft in a "hibernation-like" state. Among other findings, recently 24 new planet discoveries were made using data from the 10th observation campaign, adding to the spacecraft's growing bounty of 2,650 confirmed planets. From this point, the priority for the space agency is to download the data from its 18th observing campaign.

Kepler began its 18th observation run on 12 May, using its 100-megapixel camera to monitor starlight from a patch of sky that was previously studied in 2015, on the lookout for the tell-tale dips in brightness that might indicate a planet moving between a star and the spacecraft.

"The Kepler team is planning to collect as much science data as possible in its remaining time and beam it back to Earth before the loss of the fuel-powered thrusters means that we can't aim the spacecraft for data transfer". The space telescope will then begin its 19th campaign with its remaining fuel. "On Aug. 2, the team will command the spacecraft to awaken from its no-fuel-use state and maneuver the spacecraft to the correct orientation and downlink the data". They will then maneuver it into the proper orientation for transmimitting the data.

NASA plans to provide an update on Kepler's status following the scheduled data download.

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But that long service is about to end, as NASA said today the craft is running out of fuel.

As engineers preserve the new data stored on the spacecraft, scientists are continuing to mine existing data already on the ground.

The ultra-sensitive CCD sensors making up the Kepler Space Telescope's camera are created to look for the slight dimming of a star's brightness that might indicate a planet passing in front as viewed from Earth. TESS is expected to discover thousands of exoplanets orbiting nearby stars over the course of its planned two year mission.

The $600 million Kepler mission launched in March 2009, with the goal of helping astronomers determine just how common Earth-like planets are throughout the Milky Way galaxy. Kepler was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies and had a planned operational life of about three and a half years. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise.While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration.

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