The Kepler space telescope of NASA will soon be retired after successfully providing information on several new planets outside the solar system in nine years and six months informed the US space agency on Tuesday. The spacecraft, which has run out of fuel, was launched in the year 2009 and has since then revealed data on billions of new planets and encouraged the further search for alien life, said the officials.
Kepler is currently making orbits around the sun, at a distance of 94 million miles from Earth. It will slowly start drifting further away from Earth when the NASA engineers switch off the radio transmitters on it, informed NASA. The data from the spacecraft revealed findings which showed that other star systems in our Milky Way galaxy comprise of billions of planets. It has also helped discover the first ever moon to be present beyond our solar system.
The positioning system of the Kepler telescope had broken down in the year 2013, and luckily the researchers discovered a way to restore the spacecraft and got it back in operations soon. However, Kepler has completely run out of fuel now and thus will not be able to carry out further operations. Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or TESS was launched by NASA this year April to replace Kepler. The satellite is currently on its 2-year mission worth $337 million.
The Kepler spacecraft has helped discover 2,681 confirmed new planets as well as 2,899 new candidates, which thus makes the total to 5,580. Surprisingly, the figure also includes around fifty planets which might be of similar size and have the same temperature as our planet. The data provided by Kepler has also helped the researchers come up with a new method of accessing if a planet comprised of a solid surface, such as Mars and Earth or gaseous such as Saturn and Jupiter.