Last week, the world said goodbye to the Kepler Space Telescope — the most prolific planet seeker that humanity has ever had up in the sky.
As the Inquisitr recently reported, Kepler ended its long and impressive career after the spacecraft finally depleted all of its fuel reserves around mid-October. The venerable telescope is currently suspended in its last-known orbit, resting among the myriad of stars that it so diligently scoured for almost a decade.
Launched on March 6, 2009, the space telescope "has wildly exceeded all our expectations," opening our eyes to the diversity of planets that exist in our galaxy, NASA officials stated on Tuesday, when the space agency officially announced Kepler's retirement.
Although his watch has ended, Kepler's legacy lives on. Throughout the span of its two extended mission, the telescope discovered a whopping 2,818 confirmed exoplanets. In addition, another 2,679 planet candidates identified by Kepler still await verification by scientists.
This wealth of data will take at least another decade to be analyzed and could lead to even more exciting discoveries, thereby adding to the rich legacy that NASA's remarkable space telescope has left behind.
"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries," said Jessie Dotson, a Kepler project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "I'm excited about the diverse discoveries that are yet to come from our data and how future missions will build upon Kepler's results."
According to Phys.org, the impressive trove of data gathered by Kepler during its nine years of activity can be consulted by anyone who wants to get up to speed on the incredible finds of the space telescope.
The data has been released to the public and is available through the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). Here, researchers, citizen scientists, and space enthusiasts from all around the world can download and study the Kepler data to learn more about the Milky Way, notes Digital Trends.
"The search for exoplanets using the Kepler data is still underway. Many are still hiding in the data, ready to be discovered," said Susan Mullally, a STScI scientist working on the Kepler mission.