Kepler planet-hunting telescope goes dark after sending last light image

After a ten year career of discovering exoplanets and gathering the most detailed ever view of a dying star, NASA’s Kepler telescope has sent its final image back to Earth.

The Kepler space telescope was launched in 2009 and was only intended to operate for three and a half years, but NASA scientists were able to come up with workarounds to enable them to keep gathering data from the telescope for nearly a decade. But NASA announced last year that the craft was finally out of fuel and would no longer be able to orient itself towards Earth, meaning that it would not be able to send any more data back.

Before the telescope ended its story, however, it sent back one last image to Earth as part of its planet-hunting mission. In its last year, Kepler found a large Earth-like world that was twice the size of our planet as well as a super Earth and a planet similar to Saturn which orbited a star like our Sun. And finally, it sent back this “last light” image that draws this remarkable journey to a close.

kepler telescope last light matlab handle graphics
The “last light” image of the Kepler telescope, taken on September 25, 2018 NASA

This image was taken in the direction of the Aquarius constellation and includes the TRAPPIST-1 system which has seven planets, at least three of which are thought to be temperate. Also captured was the GJ 9827 system, whose bright star illuminates nearby planets which could be good targets for future telescope observations. The gaps in the image are due to camera parts which failed earlier in Kepler’s life, but thanks to its modular design the rest of the instrument was able to continue gathering data.

In a neat bookend to Kepler’s story, its final field of view overlaps with that of its successor, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). TESS will be taking up the baton of planet hunting, and having two sets of data about the same area of space allows researchers to find anything they might have missed and to improve their understanding of the data.

This is goodbye for Kepler, but it leaves behind a remarkable scientific legacy — a trove of astronomical data collected over its decade-long mission, all of which is available to the public for download.

Emerging Tech

Touchdown! Japan successfully lands its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on asteroid Ryugu

Japan's space agency has just completed the latest stage of its extraordinarily complex mission, successfully landing its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on an asteroid millions of miles from Earth.
Mobile

Sony partnership with Light aims to take smartphone photography to new heights

Smartphone photography is in its ascendancy, and a new partnership between Light and Sony hopes to lift it to new heights through the development of multi-image sensor solutions for smartphones. We spoke to Light to find out more.
Photography

NASA celebrates Earth’s incredible natural beauty with free photo book

NASA has published a fabulous new book featuring stunning imagery captured by its satellites over the years. A hardback version is available for $53, though it can also be downloaded to ebook readers for free, and enjoyed online.
Emerging Tech

InSight’s heat probe will dig 16 feet beneath the surface of Mars

New images from NASA's InSight mission to Mars have confirmed that the lander succeeded in setting the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument onto the surface, from where a self-hammering spike will burrow downwards.
Emerging Tech

DeepSqueak is a machine learning A.I. that reveals what rats are chatting about

Want to know what rats are squeaking about? You'd better check out DeepSqueak, the new deep learning artificial intelligence developed by researchers at the University of Washington.
Health & Fitness

Immune cell discovery takes us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

A group of international researchers have made a discovery which could take us one step closer to the universal, one-shot flu vaccine that people around the world have been dreaming of.
Deals

This new all-in-one flashlight is a power bank, lighter, and screwdriver

The Pyyros modular flashlight can perform numerous field tasks, from hammering to starting fires. If you back it on Kickstarter now, you can score some savings on this innovative flashlight and multi-tool, but act fast: This early-bird…
Movies & TV

Hilarious new Kickstarter aims to fix Scorcese’s last scene in The Departed

A fan of The Departed and apparent hater of rat-as-symbolism imagery has launched a Kickstarter campaign to digitally erase the rodent from the end of Martin Scorsese’s 2006 movie.
Emerging Tech

Baristas beware, Bbox cafe uses robots to brew your morning coffee

Want your morning coffee and pastry prepared by robot? Bbox, a new coffee shop in downtown Berkeley, California, lets customers place their order by app and then uses automation to take care of the rest.
Emerging Tech

This ridiculous new flamethrower makes Elon Musk’s look like a cigarette lighter

The XL18 Flamethrower is a flame-shooting beast on steroids, capable of firing off bursts of flame more than 110 feet in length. The best part? You can order it over the internet today.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX just nailed its most challenging Falcon 9 rocket landing to date

If you've been following the SpaceX launch calendar, you know this week marks the first launch from Cape Canaveral in two months. We have the details on where you can watch the launch live.
Emerging Tech

Delivery drones: NASA to test advanced traffic control system for cities

Delivery drone services are edging closer as NASA prepares to demonstrate its advanced drone traffic management system, which it claims offers safe and effective control of autonomous aircraft in urban areas.
Emerging Tech

Kickstarter campaign aims to help make 3D-printed space habitats for Mars

Mars X-House is an ambitious project that's intended to create a prototype future Mars habitat using 3D printing. And, thanks to a new Kickstarter campaign, you can be a part of it.
Emerging Tech

Engineer turns his old Apple lle into an wheeled robot, and even gives it a sword

How do you give new life to a 30-year-old computer? Software engineer Mike Kohn found a way by transforming his old Apple IIe into a wheeled robot. Check it out in all its 1980s glory.