This illustration made available by NASA shows the Kepler Space Telescope. As of October 2018, the planet-hunting spacecraft has been in space for nearly a decade. (NASA via AP)

NASA declares elite planet-hunting spacecraft dead

October 30, 2018 - 3:03 pm

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA has declared its elite planet-hunting spacecraft dead.

Officials announced the Kepler Space Telescope's demise Tuesday.

Already well past its expected lifetime, the 9-year-old Kepler had been running low on fuel for months. Its ability to point at specific regions in the cosmos worsened dramatically at the beginning of October, but flight controllers still managed to retrieve its latest observations. The telescope has now gone silent.

Kepler discovered more than 2,600 planets outside our solar system. It showed us rocky worlds the size of Earth that, like Earth, might harbor life. By staring down stars, Kepler also unveiled incredible super Earths: planets bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune.

The end came just a few months shy of the 10th anniversary of Kepler's 2009 launch.

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