2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
The Kepler telescope came out of hibernation, into which it was sent in July, and began a new observation campaign. It is planned that the "hunter for exoplanets" will work until the fuel reserves are completely depleted, which may happen in the coming months, according to NASA.
The main task of the Kepler space telescope is to search for exoplanets using the transit photometry method. During the first three years of operation, the device discovered more than 3,500 candidates for exoplanets, most of them being small planets less than three times the size of Earth. In 2013, due to a breakdown of the gyroscope, Kepler's work was stopped, however, engineers managed to restore the telescope's orientation using solar radiation, and in 2014 a new K2 mission began, which continues to this day. To date, Kepler has completed 18 observation campaigns, although initially only 10 were expected.
In March, the mission team reported that fuel supplies on board the telescope were running low. Without fuel, the observatory will not be able to correct its orientation in space, which will stop scientific work and data transmission to Earth. Astronomers plan to make the most of the telescope's resource before its failure, so at this stage, NASA's priority is to transfer already collected data. To this end, in July, Kepler was put into hibernation mode to save fuel, and communication sessions with the telescope were scheduled for August, as a result of which the engineers had to evaluate the suitability of the telescope for data transmission and further work.
Kepler launched its 19th observation campaign on 29 August. The engineers report that there may be minor problems with aiming the telescope at the target due to the unusual behavior of one of the engines. How much fuel remains on board the telescope is still unclear, nevertheless, experts hope to carry out another, already 20th, observation campaign and constantly monitor the condition and performance of the telescope.
After Kepler completes its work, the TESS space telescope will search for exoplanets. It was launched into space in April this year, and a month after launch it sent its first test image. In addition, a new CHEOPS telescope, created by the European Space Agency, is scheduled to be launched into space at the beginning of 2019.