NASA releases the “last light” image taken by Kepler before it retired last year
“It bookends the moment of intense excitement nine and a half years earlier when the spacecraft first opened its eye to the skies and captured its
The “last light” image was taken on September 25, about a month before Kepler retired. The space telescope was pointed in the direction of the Aquarius constellation and the image encompasses the TRAPPIST-1 system, containing “seven rocky planets, at least three of them believed to be temperate worlds,” Hawkes wrote, and
Kepler’s field of view also slightly overlapped with NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), its planet-hunting successor, so astronomers will be able to compare data from the two. TESS launched last year and is expected to catalogue more than 1,500 exoplanets.
Kepler’s legacy is even more extraordinary because its primary mission was originally planned to last for 3.5 years. Instead, the space craft, named for 17th-century German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler
Significantly, many of the planets Kepler discovered may be similar to Earth in size, with NASA analysis
Kepler also continued recording specific targets every 30 seconds, doing so for a few hour after the “last light” image was taken. “Although Kepler’s transmitters have been turned off and it is no longer collecting science, its data will be mined for many years to come,” Hawkes wrote.