Kepler: Nasa Retires Prolific Telescope From Planet-Hunting Duties
The prolific Kepler space telescope has had to give up its prime planet-hunting mission after engineers failed to find a fix for its hobbled pointing system.
The observatory lost the second of its four reaction wheels in May, meaning it can no longer hold completely steady as it looks towards the stars.
Nasa engineers have worked through a number of possible solutions but have failed to find one that will work.
Kepler has so far confirmed 135 planets beyond our Solar System.
But it still has more than 3,500 “candidates” in its database that have yet to be fully investigated, and the vast majority of these are expected to be confirmed as planets in due course.
The $600m (£395m) observatory was launched in March 2009 to try to find Earth-sized worlds orbiting their host stars in the so-called habitable zone. This is the region around a star where, given the right atmospheric conditions, temperatures would permit water to persist on a rocky surface in a liquid state. In essence, Kepler has been attempting to locate planets that have the best chance of supporting life.