After going through some tough moments, the Kepler spacecraft was successfully repaired and has thus resumed the K2 mission of discovering planets near other stars. This mission has given a second purpose to Kepler. Three years ago, two reaction wheels of the spacecraft failed and thus the controllers of the mission could not aim the exoplanet hunter easily to the desired target.
However, the scientists managed to find a way to steer Kepler, by using solar wind and thus the observatory had once again set into motion. Furthermore, its abilities were extended from searching for planets orbiting stars to traditional targets, like the supernovae. The current mission has different series which go on for ninety days campaigns.
The subsystems and computers of Kepler were repaired by a power-cycle routine, which also cleared the emergency state. The mission was resumed on April 19 when scientists also reset its counters and logs and refreshed its list of targets. Additionally, a new command sequence was sent to the spacecraft. At the moment, Kepler is pointed towards the center of the galaxy as the mission was re-labeled as C9.
According to the Ames Research Center project manager Charlie Sobeck from NASA,
“The C9 observing period will conclude on July 1, when the galactic center is no longer in view from the vantage point of the spacecraft. K2 will then begin Campaign 10, which will proceed to investigate an entirely new set of interesting astrophysical targets.”
The cause of the emergency state is still unknown to astronomers, but many believe that some alarms were triggered by a transient electrical signal, thus leading to this mode on April 8 this year. Kepler has found over one thousand confirmed exoplanets until now, which are all orbiting other stars. However, there are many other discoveries waiting to be confirmed by specialists. Overall, scientists have knowledge on two thousand exoplanets, half of which were discovered by Kepler.
There are currently about 3,600 candidates that astronomers believe ninety percent will be confirmed to be alien worlds. In spite of the challenges it went through, the observatory has exceeded the expectations of its designers.
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