Telescope “Kepler” came out of the “hibernation”, in which he was sent in July, and began a new observation campaign. It is planned that the “exoplanet hunter” will work until the exhaustion of fuel is exhausted, which can happen in the coming months, NASA reports .
The main task of the Kepler space telescope is the search for exoplanets by the method of transit photometry . During the first three years of operation, the device found more than 3,500 candidates for exoplanets, most of them small planets that are three times smaller than the Earth. In 2013, due to gyro breakage, Kepler’s work was discontinued, but engineers managed to restore the telescope’s orientation using solar radiation, and in 2014 a new mission of K2 began , which continues to this day. To date, Kepler has completed 18 monitoring campaigns, although initially only 10 were planned.
In March, the mission team reported that the fuel supplies on board the telescope are coming to an end. Without fuel, the observatory will not be able to correct its orientation in space, because of which scientific work and data transfer to Earth will cease. Astronomers plan to make maximum use of the telescope’s resource before it fails, so at this stage NASA’s priority is to transfer the data already collected. To this end, in July, “Kepler” was switchedto sleep mode to save fuel, and in August communications sessions with the telescope were planned. As a result, the engineers had to assess the suitability of the telescope for data transmission and further work.
August 29, “Kepler” began its 19-th observation campaign. Engineers report that with the aiming of the telescope on the target there may be minor problems 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 conduct another, already 20th in the account monitoring campaign and constantly monitor the condition and performance of the telescope.
After the “Kepler” has completed its work, the space telescope TESS will search for exoplanets. He was launched into space in April this year, and a month after the launch sent the first test shot. In addition, at the beginning of 2019, the launch of a new telescope CHEOPS, created by the European Space Agency , is planned in space .