During the nine years of its operation, the Kepler space telescope managed to make many surprising discoveries. With the help of this device, scientists confirmed the existence of 2,245 exoplanets, and also found 2,342 candidates on the list of these celestial bodies. But everything ever comes to an end. That's the telescope "Kepler" very soon go down in history as one of the most amazing tools developed by human civilization. The fact is that the telescope is running out of fuel. According to NASA specialists, it remains only a few months for the spacecraft.
"Our current calculations show that Kepler's fuel reserves remained only a few months. However, it should be noted that the device has already managed to surprise us with its performance during its operation, "the system engineer for the Kepler space mission Charlie Sobek said in a NASA press release.
" We understand and are ready for the telescope soon will finish its scientific activity, but until its fuel runs out completely, we will continue to work with it. "
Speaking of surprise, Sobek most likely refers to the incident that occurred in 2013 and already then nearly put an end to the further work of the body osprey. At that time, there was a breakdown of one of the flywheel engines responsible for the orientation of the apparatus in space. As a result, NASA engineers came to a very interesting solution and instead of the failed engine orientation as a stabilizing factor began to use the pressure of solar radiation. So the new life of "Kepler", which was called "mission K2", began. Since then, the apparatus had to change its direction every three months and explore various parts of outer space. Every such change of direction NASA called "campaigns" and already at that time found out that the fuel of the device is enough for about 10 such campaigns. As part of the K2 mission, Kepler completed 16 research campaigns. At the moment there is the 17th.
Artistic representation of the KOI-961 planetary system discovered by Kepler
Now Kepler is located at about 140 million kilometers, so even if desired, the agency can not send a spacecraft to it refueling. For the remaining time, Sobek's team will try to squeeze out the latest juices from it and make sure that all the data that Kepler has collected and still have time to collect will be sent to Earth.
After the telescope runs out of fuel, the mission engineers will no longer be able to start its engines for orientation in space to direct its transmitting antenna towards the Earth. The device itself is not equipped with a system that shows how much fuel it has left, so the NASA team is left to watch for signs (pressure drop in the fuel tank or low engine performance) that could indicate the final death of the telescope.
Despite to the imminent and imminent death of the telescope, astronomers will soon have something to do. The apparatus has collected so much scientific data that it may take a year to fully analyze them. As already mentioned above, more than 2000 telescopes detected by celestial bodies have the status of candidates for exoplanets, so there is still a lot of work to be done.
December 2017. Engineers finish assembling the telescope TESS
In addition, just a month later, the successor to Kepler, the TESS transit space telescope, is expected to be launched. The launch is scheduled for April 16 and will be carried out using the Falcon 9 booster of SpaceX.