UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) – The Kepler orbital telescope may end in the coming weeks and months due to the fact that its fuel reserves have almost completely come to an end, reports the press service of NASA.
After the launch of the Kepler orbital telescope in 2009, scientists discovered almost four thousand planets outside the solar system. Several dozen of them are considered today as potential “counterparts” of the Earth or are in the so-called “zone of life”. Their discovery prompted paleontologists and astrobiologists to begin developing methods that would allow them to assess their suitability for life or to try to find its traces in their atmosphere.
In May 2013, the telescope failed, but about a year later, NASA specialists found a way to continue its work within the so-called mission K2. Before the break, Kepler was sent to one point in space and watched only a small corner of the sky, which is located at the junction of the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra.
After the “resurrection”, the telescope monitors different areas of the sky, as the Kepler’s scientific team has to constantly rotate it so that sunlight does not get into the telescope’s lens.
Such a decision, as Mario Perez said, the head of the Kepler mission, in a conversation with a RIA Novosti correspondent, imposed very stringent restrictions on the lifetime of the telescope – the spacecraft has to constantly spend fuel to maintain its position in space.
His reserves, as NASA experts expected, should have been sufficient until April 2018, when the ideological successor of Kepler, the orbiting observatory TESS, was launched into space. With a more favorable combination of circumstances, as Perez hoped, the telescope could survive until the spring of 2019.
This, judging from the current projections of Perez and his team, is not to befall – after the last turn of the telescope, which was produced earlier this week, the fuel reserves in the Kepler tanks almost completely came to an end. Scientists expect that he will lose the ability to stabilize himself in space in the next few weeks or months.
As Charles Sobek notes, one of the mission engineers, even the relatively early completion of K2, was a pleasant surprise for the Kepler team – NASA experts initially expected the probe to operate in this mode for only 30 months, not 51 months or more.
According to him, the probe continues to work in normal mode – it will collect scientific data until at least one drop of fuel remains in its tanks. Unlike Cassini and other planetary missions, NASA does not plan to break Kepler or transfer it to another orbit, which will maximize its life.