NASA's iconic Kepler space telescope - which has discovered 70 percent of the 3,750 exoplanets known to date - is running so low on fuel that the agency has put it into a hibernation-like state, agency officials announced today (July 6).
In 2013, Kepler's primary mission ended when a second reaction wheel broke, rendering it unable to hold its gaze steady at the original field of view.
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. Those dips can be planets that are moving across the stars.
"To bring the data home, the spacecraft must point its large antenna back to Earth and transmit the data during its allotted Deep Space Network time, which is scheduled in early August", NASA officials wrote in a statement. Sending these data to the Ground is the highest priority of the mission.
Kepler has been on its 18th observation since May 12 of this year (2018), studying a cluster of stars near the constellation of Cancer that the spacecraft had previously observed in 2015.
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NASA in a report said that once all the data is downloaded, Kepler will be switched on again to continue its observations till it eventually runs out of fuel.
NASA's Kepler mission has discovered a world where two suns set over the horizon instead of just one. It's also found a planet that uncannily mirrors many of Earth's characteristics.
NASA plans to provide an update on Kepler's status following the scheduled data download. If enough fuel remains after the August 2 phone call home, campaign 19 will begin on August 6, NASA officials said. However, it worked and makes the spaceship to observe the space portion for approximately 83 days in first run.
Kepler's "replacement" is the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which has a lofty goal of finding 20,000 new exoplanets. "Given that most stars in our galaxy are part of a binary system, this means the opportunities for life are much broader than if planets form only around single stars", explained William Borucki from the Kepler Space Telescope science team. TESS has been selected by NASA as an Astrophysics Explorer mission. From the data, the size and distance of the planet can be calculated along with if the planet's character temperatures that can determine if it's habitable.