NASA recently announced that it has decided 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.
“Kepler has exceeded all of our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond,” Thomas Zurbuchen, deputy director of NASA’s Science Missions Department, said in a statement.
The space agency explained that Kepler has run out of fuel for other scientific operations and that, for that reason, NASA has chosen to remove the telescope within its current orbit, far from Earth.
NASA stressed that “many” of the exoplanets discovered through Kepler “could be promising places for life.”
“It not only showed us how many planets could be out there, but it also generated a whole new field of research. (…) Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe,” Zurbuchen added.
The most recent analysis of Kepler’s findings concludes that between 20 and 50 percent of stars visible in the night sky are likely to have small, possibly rocky, planets similar in size to Earth and located within the habitable zone. of its stars.
According to NASA, that means they are located at distances from their stars where liquid water, a vital ingredient for life as we know it, could accumulate on the surface of the planet.
The founder of the Kepler mission, William Borucki, recalled that when this idea was conceived 35 years ago, humanity “did not know of a single planet” outside the solar system.
“Now that we know that planets are everywhere, Kepler has put us on a new path full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy,” said the veteran NASA researcher.
Launched into space on March 6, 2009, the Kepler telescope combined techniques to measure stellar brightness with the largest digital camera equipped for observations of outer space at that time.
Also, Kepler made the first recognition of planets in our galaxy and became the first mission of the US space agency to detect planets the size of the Earth in the habitable zones of their stars.
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.