Telescope Nerd » Space Telescopes » The History The Kepler Space Telescope

The History The Kepler Space Telescope

The Kepler Space Telescope was designed by NASA to study exoplanets using the transit method. It was first proposed in 1994 and renamed in 1996, after German astronomer, Johannes Kepler, who is known for his discovery of laws of planetary motion. Kepler was developed by NASA’s Ames Research Center and the Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. It was launched on March 6, 2009 and operated until October 30, 2018.

Who Proposed the Kepler Space Telescope?

William Borucki led the design and operation of the Kepler Space Telescope. In 1983, William Borucki began the effort to search for habitable exoplanets using a space telescope. The telescope was rejected four times before it was approved as NASA’s tenth Discovery-class mission. 

What was the Mission of the Kepler Space Telescope?

The Kepler Space Telescope’s mission was to explore the structure and composition of planetary systems including Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of other stars. To do this, Kepler studied the location and composition, as well as their ability to hold water on the surface and support life. 

Who Built the Kepler Space Telescope?

The Kepler Space Telescope was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp in Boulder, Colorado and overseen by William Borucki, NASA’s principal investigator. The mission development was managed by Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, California, and organized by Leslie Livesay, director for astronomy and physics

Who Operated the Kepler Space Telescope?

The Kepler Space Telescope was operated by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado. Data was then sent to Kepler Data Management Center (DMC), located at the Institution on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland

When Was the Kepler Space Telescope Launched?

The Kepler Space Telescope was launched on March 6, 2009 at 10:49 p.m. EST.

Where Was the Kepler Space Telescope Launched?

The Kepler Space Telescope was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It was launched from Space Launch Complex 17-B, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

When Did the Kepler Space Telescope Begin Observations?

Just over two months after launch, Kepler Space Telescope began its mission on May 13, 2009.

What Instruments did the Kepler Space Telescope Use?

The Kepler Space Telescope used a single instrument, the Keplar photometer.  The photometer was a Schmidt telescope, with a 0.95-meter aperture and 105 square degrees field of view. This instrument allowed scientists to pan the sky for planetary transits, then focus on them to calculate their habitability.

How did the Kepler Space Telescope Use the Transit Method?

The Kepler Space Telescope utilized the transit method to identify and analyze exoplanets. A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of its host star, appearing as a black dot passing in front of it. Using Kepler’s Third Law of planetary motion, the telescope was able to calculate the orbital size. It also analyzed the size and temperature of the planet, as well as its host star. This allowed scientists to quickly determine the habitability of exoplanets.

When Was the Kepler Space Telescope Mission Extended?

On November 15, 2012, nearing the end of its expected 3.5-year operational lifetime, NASA began its first extended mission. This was expected to last until 2016, but in May 2013, Kepler’s second of four reaction wheels failed, bringing an end to the first mission. While the telescope can function properly with three reaction wheels, another had already failed in July 2012, meaning they could no longer accurately aim the telescope. On May 15, 2013, NASA officially ended the first of Kepler’s missions, opening the door to proposals, despite its limitations.

What Was the Kepler Space Telescope’s K2 Mission?

NASA approved the Kepler Space Telescope’s second mission, “K2” or “Second Light” in May 2014. This mission utilized solar radiation and its two remaining reaction wheels to stabilize itself, panning to a new view of the sky every 83 days in order to avoid sunlight entering the telescope. In this mission, K2 set out to investigate smaller and dimmer red dwarf stars. 

What Has the Kepler Space Telescope Discovered?

The Kepler Space Telescope discovered 2,662 exoplanets, making up nearly two-thirds of the known exoplanets at its time. These discoveries include several super-Earths and similar-sized planets in the habitable zone of their host stars. It also discovered the first Earth-size exoplanet, Kepler-186f, in the habitable zone of its star.

How Did Kepler Space Telescope Impact History?

During its operational lifetime, the Kepler Space Telescope provided a huge leap in our understanding of exoplanets and their habitability. The Kepler mission’s principal investigator, William Borucki, explained, “Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that’s full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy.” This legacy, and the knowledge it provided, has inspired numerous other missions to search for habitable planets, including the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

Why was the Kepler Space Telescope Decommissioned?

The Kepler Space Telescope was officially decommissioned on October 30th, 2018 due to the depletion of its fuel. The mission was initially planned to last for 3.5 years but it was extended multiple times due to its success, operating for over 9 years before being retired into a safe orbit, traveling away from earth.