Kepler Woke Up Again: Now What?

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We all know how NASA’s Kepler space telescope got low on fuel recently and we also know how it discovered about 2.650 planets until now. Well, it comes back with a brand new observation, as the agency officials announced on the 5th of September.

What was the goal of the Kepler mission?

The Kepler mission (worth of $600 million) was launched in March 2009 and its aim was to find what Earth-like planets are in our galaxy. Initially, around 150.000 stars were studied to see how many tiny brightness dips were caused by the route of the orbiting planets.

This whole thing ended in the May of 2013, after Kepler had a problem: its four wheels failed and the space telescope lost the precise pointing ability it possessed. The team behind it found a way to stabilize Kepler – they used sunlight pressure, and the spacecraft soon started a new mission called K2; that happened in 2014. K2 had the aim to study the variety of cosmic objects in a mission that lasted 80 days.

What happens now?

In 2018, in July, Kepler was put by the team into an hibernation-like state to make sure that the spacecraft remains with enough fuel to position itself to Earth in August and give more info regarding Campaign 18. It’s worth saying that such data can be limited. However, the data for Campaign 18 was collected successfully. After this, the spacecraft went back to the hibernation state. The team members have us this info on the 24th of August. It’s been said that Kepler woke up and started Campaign 19 on the 29th of August. However, we’re not sure of its future.

After the spacecraft was stirred from the sleeping mode, its configuration was modified because of an unusual behavior that was shown by one of the thrusters. The first indications were displayed by the pointing performance of the telescope, that appeared to be degraded.

As our second lead editor, Anna C. Mackinno provides guidance on the stories Great Lakes Ledger reporters cover. She has been instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. If you see a particularly clever title, you can likely thank Anna. Anna received a BA and and MA from Fordham University.