In Brief

Astronomer's Poem Mourns Ailing Kepler Spacecraft

NASA's Kepler mission is searching for Earth-like planets by looking for them to cross the face of alien stars.
NASA's Kepler mission is searching for Earth-like planets by looking for them to cross the face of alien stars. (Image credit: NASA)

Oh, Kepler, we hardly knew ye.

Scientists have been mourning the news that NASA's prolific planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope may have to cease its search for good. NASA announced on Wednesday (May 15) that one of Kepler's four reaction wheels, which maintain its position in space, has failed. While space agency officials haven't admitted defeat yet, saying there is still a chance the vehicle could be repaired, the news is sobering.

Astronomer Geoff Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley, perhaps put it best by reacting to the news with his own take on the W.H. Auden poem "Funeral Blues," which Marcy tweaked to fit Kepler's circumstances. Read on below to see Marcy's complete poetic ode to Kepler sent in to

Stop all the clocks, cut off the internet,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let jet airplanes circle at night overhead
Sky-writing over Cygnus: Kepler is dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of doves,
Let the traffic officers wear black cotton gloves.

Kepler was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week, no weekend rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talks, my song;
I thought Kepler would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are still wanted now; let's honor every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing will ever be this good.

With thanks to W.H.Auden.

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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.