NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope retires after nine years exploring space

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As an astronomical passing of the baton, in the last month of Kepler's mission, both TESS and Kepler simultaneously observed over a hundred of the same stars.

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has completed its primary planet-hunting and follow-up K2 missions and will be decommissioned. Since the beginning of this year, on the other hand, it has operated with little fuel and had been turned off several times to reserve the remaining combustible for certain special tasks.

NASA recently announced that it has made a decision to end the mission of the Kepler space telescope, an instrument that has served to discover more than 2,600 exoplanets in the last nine years.

"It not only showed us how many planets could be out there, but it also generated a whole new field of research".

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"Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars", he added. The spacecraft, with a 1.4-meter diameter telescope, discovered almost 3000 exoplanets and many potential candidates that are still awaiting confirmation.

Kepler focused on the stars near the constellation Cygnus and found that small planets are common in the Milky Way Galaxy.

What Kepler found during its lifetime could be a guide not only in the continuing search for exoplanets, but the search for anything alive beyond Earth. TESS builds on Kepler's foundation with fresh batches of data in its search of planets orbiting some 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to the Earth, worlds that can later be explored for signs of life by missions, such as NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

Since it was launched in 2009, Kepler has aided astronomers around the world in the hunt for planets outside of the solar system similar to Earth and orbiting other stars.

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"Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that's full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy", said retired NAA researcher William Borucki.

Years later and after overcoming mechanical failures, Kepler discovered more than 2,600 exoplanets and analyzed up to 50,000 stars, according to NASA calculations. This will allow scientists to make new discoveries even if Kepler's mission has officially ended.

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries", said Jessie Dotson, Kepler's project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center. This second phase of Kepler's science program was called the K2 mission.

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