Kepler Telescope almost out of fuel, goes in to hibernation

Kepler K2

NASA's storied Kepler Space Telescope - the craft which has discovered thousands of exoplanets since its launch in 2009 - is entering the retirement phase of its lifespan.

For now, Kepler's team is concentrating on the downloading of data gathered during the spacecraft's most recent observation. The agency has been monitoring the Kepler spacecraft closely for signs of low fuel, and expects it to run out of fuel in the next few months.

The Kepler mission team recently received an indication that the spacecraft is running very low on fuel.

The Kepler team will wake up the spacecraft on August 2 and maneuver it to the correct orientation to downlink the data.

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Now the telescope will not hold any scientific observation - he'll have to wait until August 2 when, according to the plan, will transfer the data collected in the last 51 days. The spacecraft finds alien worlds via the "transit method", noticing the tiny brightness dips caused when orbiting planets cross a star's face from Kepler's perspective.

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. So now, NASA says returning the data back to Earth is the highest priority for the remaining fuel. Astronomers hope that this information will provide the opportunity to confirm the existence of new exoplanets. Most notable, in 2013, a malfunctioned reaction wheel on the spacecraft prevented it from being stable required NASA to readjust the mission for the Kepler. The planets come in all sizes and shapes and range from Jupiter like big and weird sized planet that orbit a binary star system to the ones that are closer in size and orbit to Earth. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. The mission resumed under the moniker K2 in May 2014. The spacecraft, launched in April, is created to find Earth-sized planets that orbit within the "habitable zone" of stars.

NASA has already launched Kepler's successor, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, which will also hunt for exoplanets. Researchers repurposed the spacecraft by changing its field of view and named this extended mission K2.

The spacecraft was given a new lease on life by using the pressure of sunlight to maintain its pointing, like a kayak steering into the current.

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