The first and last images captured by the NASA-JPL space telescope Kepler are shown side by side. This craft was launched back on March 7, 2009, and the planned mission duration was 3.5 years. A full 9 years, 7 months and 23 days later, it still worked. Now the excitement is over and the final data has come in.
This craft was named after the astronomer Johannes Kepler, and was launched specifically to find groundbreaking planets that orbit other stars than our own. Kepler was made as a space observatory and it has been floating in space on a ground-trailing heliocentric circuit when it was put into space. The first notice of retirement of this mission was made on October 30, 2018.
This craft and this mission made great strides forward in broadening our vision and data on stars and planets surrounding us. To do this, the craft used its photometer to monitor the brightness of light in its field of vision. In his time as an active mission, Kepler observed 530,506 stars and discovered a cool 2,663 planets.
This vessel aims to search for earth-shaped exoplanets so we can leave this polluted mass of dirt called Earth at some point in the future. The pollution bit is not necessarily written in the vessel's mission statement, but the possibility remains. By surveying exoplanets in human habitable zones ̵
Pictures of first light and last light were shared this week by NASA, which also notes that Kepler continued to find surprising data until the end. "Kepler phoned in the new year with several new planet finds," NASA Ames Research Center wrote Alison Hawkes with NASA editor Rick Chen. including a previously overlooked planet with an unusual size, as well as a super earth and a Saturn-sized world that orbits a sun-like star. "
Above you will see First Light from the first reported pictures from Kepler. Below is this week's last light. As Hawkes wrote this week," Although Kepler's transmitters have been turned off and it no longer gathers science, their will data will be extracted for many years to come. "
If you want to work on the data, Kepler's overall you can! You can work with the data even if you have no qualifications at all! All you have to do is go over to Caltech's listing in the Exoplanet Archive and you find so many links to data your head will spin.
NOTE: The Kepler and K2 missions are managed by NASA's Ames Research Center, California for NASA's Director of Science. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory directed Kepler's mission development. "Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation ran the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder."