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On the retirement of Kepler

16 Nov 2018, 19:00 UTC
On the retirement of Kepler
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Article written by: Gavin Ramsay, Resident Astronomer Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

NASA has announced the retirement of the Kepler spacecraft. After launch in March 2009, it began a continuous observation of a 115 square degree field of view (the diameter of the moon is 1/2 a degree) between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. For all ground based telescopes, and for most space telescopes, observations of a specific star are interrupted by either day light, bad weather or times when the Earth or Sun gets in the way. Kepler was able to make uninterrupted observations of more than 120,000 stars simultaneously with one highly accurate brightness measurement for each star every 30 min and in some cases every minute. During the four year lifetime, it discovered more than a thousand confirmed planets around other stars; allowed astronomers to penetrate deep into stars interiors through their pulsations; observe flares from stars, and outbursts from accreting binaries – to name just a few of the many science areas which Kepler data was used for.
Evidence for planets around other stars can be found if the planets orbit crosses our line of sight to the host star once per planet year. Smaller ...

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