Sunday, April 10, 2016

[U] O/T Space Science: Update On Kepler Exo-Planet Hunter

UPDATED: New post in a minute here, but NASA has been able to fully recover Kepler to operating status. The lil' ship is now stable. Whew.

Back in 2012, the main science mission of the Kepler observatory solar-orbiting space telescope was completed -- so these last four years have all been "bonus" eye-in-the-night-sky time.

In all, the main mission -- and extended K2 mission -- have racked up (as of May 2015) some mighty impressive numbers -- depicted at right. Of those nearly 5,000 distant planetary worlds now spotted, the discovery of (updated as of April 2016, from 8 -- to 12) twelve -- twelve, that are likely to be similar to ours -- is perhaps the most impressive feat it achieved. Those twelve in fact could be home to beings like us -- right now. Could be.

So. . . it saddens me quite a bit to report that, since mid-last week, the spacecraft has been burning excessive amounts of fuel, while operating in emergency mode -- due to (at this point) unknown technical difficulties. We hope the little ship can be righted, but it may be that with only one of its four orientation gyros now working, it will no longer be responsive/maneuverable. We will keep a good thought, here. Here's a bit from NASA, at week's end:

. . . .Initial indications are that Kepler entered EM approximately 36 hours ago, before mission operations began the maneuver to orient the spacecraft to point toward the center of the Milky Way for the K2 mission's microlensing observing campaign.

The spacecraft is nearly 75 million miles from Earth, making the communication slow. Even at the speed of light, it takes 13 minutes for a signal to travel to the spacecraft and back.

The last regular contact with the spacecraft was on April. 4. The spacecraft was in good health and operating as expected. . . .

And so, I suppose if this is to be the end of Kepler/K2. . . we may all smile, and quite fairly say "she gave us a very nice ride." Namaste, to all of good will -- take good care of one another.

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