Since it was first launched into space, NASA’s Kepler telescope was meant to be on the lookout for exoplanets. However, scientists have also been making use of its incredible power in other ways, in particular in observing distant supernovae.
Kepler Telescope Observes Supernovae Prior to Replacement by TESS
Despite initially being designed for observing exoplanets, scientists quickly realized just how useful Kepler could truly be in terms of space research. Kepler’s ability to record a single area in space for extended periods made it ideal for observing various space phenomena.
While the telescope has been used in observing different things over the years, from planets to supernovae and more, its original alternative use was in search of galactic nuclei. These are supermassive black holes in the center of galaxies, kept shining due to continually consuming hot gases in the area.
It was not until 2012 in the search for galactic nuclei that a supernova was first observed. This was first thought to potentially be a computer error. However, University of Maryland scientists Shaya and Robert Olling developed new software to allow Kepler to distinguish temperature variations in space.
It also helped it more precisely observe different areas in space. Thanks to this, the scientists were able to confirm that the bright spot they first saw was actually a supernova. The software also helped locate several other supernovae over the following years.
While Kepler will soon be retired after running out of fuel, its impact on science and the study of space is undeniable. As it is fazed out, its original mission of locating exoplanets will be taken up by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS.