A broken planet-finding telescope is to remain crippled in space after scientists gave up attempts to restore it to full working order.
The news was announced by the American space agency Nasa, which is looking to see what can be salvaged from the Kepler space telescope.
Kepler, which cost £395m, was launched in March 2009 with the chief aim of searching for Earth-sized planets that might support life. It has proved one of Nasa’s most successful missions, delivering a mass of data on planets orbiting distant stars which is still being studied.
From the observations analysed so far scientists have confirmed the existence of 135 new exo- planets and identified more than 3,500 candidates.
Several of these are described as “super-Earths” with up to 10 times our own planet’s mass situated in “habitable zone” orbits where conditions may be suitable for life.
In November last year, Kepler completed its primary mission and began a four-year extended mission. The telescope detects planets by measuring the tiny dip in light output when an orbiting object passes in front of a star.