The Kepler Mission has left a gold mine of data for astronomers to analyze for years to come to find additional planets. Kepler switched into “safe mode” in May, after a gyroscope used to aim the telescope broke. At the time, its hunt for potentially habitable worlds, the mission was closing in on the answer. To date. Kepler had discovered 3,548 possible planets to date, and 135 of them — some smaller than the Earth — have been validated by other observations, including the first Earth-sized worlds found outside our solar system, profoundly altering our sense of place in the universe.
But hundreds or thousands more planets are in the pipeline, said William Borucki of NASA’s Ames Research Laboratory, Kepler’s originator and principal investigator. “We’re going have to dig down hard to find those planets — we know we can do it,” Mr. Borucki said. “Now at the completion,” he said, “we know our galaxy is filled to the brim with planets. When you look up at the sky and see it filled with stars, most of those stars have planets.