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Kepler Mission Manager Update

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed May 16, 2012 4:19 am via: NASA
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April was a momentous time for the mission! The team received approval for a mission extension through fiscal year 2016, based on a recommendation from NASA’s 2012 Senior Review of Astrophysics Missions. In addition to Kepler, eight other missions were approved. The 2012 NASA Senior Review report is available here.

The extended mission will begin in October 2012. The team has been busy preparing a transition plan to carry the mission through 2016. The extended mission paradigm will be to operate with more dependence on, and service to, the astronomical community. The Kepler exoplanet survey will continue, but, to reduce mission cost, the project will support follow-up observation and analysis only of planet candidates near Earth-size and then produce a reliable catalog of the near Earth-size candidates. In addition to continuing the exoplanet survey, the level of Kepler resources devoted to astrophysical studies will be substantially increased to allow much greater community participation in Kepler science. All Kepler survey data will be available to the community for analysis with no proprietary period.

Lonely Hot Jupiters. The illustration shows the 63 hot Jupiter systems, planetary systems with Jupiter-size planet candidates in three-day orbits, and their stars as well as approximate stellar colors. Simulated stellar disks and the silhouettes of the transiting planet candidates are all shown at the same relative scale. Credit: Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics/J Steffen

Lonely Hot Jupiters. The illustration shows the 63 hot Jupiter systems, planetary systems with Jupiter-size planet candidates in three-day orbits, and their stars as well as approximate stellar colors. Simulated stellar disks and the silhouettes of the transiting planet candidates are all shown at the same relative scale. Credit: Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics/J Steffen

Extended mission planning and implementation are progressing. Methods and infrastructure to facilitate working groups of community scientists to participate both in the survey operation and analysis of survey results are being developed. The Kepler Guest Observer Office is preparing to support observations proposed by the community, as well as access to archival data. Extended mission follow-up observing plans and procedures will be completed in time for trial use in the summer 2012 observing season, before the first season of the extended mission in early 2013. All other preparations for extended mission operation will be in place and functioning by the beginning of October 2012.

On April 16, during the opening ceremony of the 28th National Space Symposium, the team was awarded the 2012 John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr., Award for Space Exploration. We are honored and humbled by this prestigious award AND the remarkable video the team at the Space Foundation produced.

Revised Candidates in the Habitable Zone, Muirhead et al, 2012. Applying new stellar radii obtained through specialized analysis using the 200-inch Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory, researchers (Muirhead et al, 2012) have rendered three super Earth-size planet candidates in the habitable zone. Credit: NASA Ames

Revised Candidates in the Habitable Zone, Muirhead et al, 2012. Applying new stellar radii obtained through specialized analysis using the 200-inch Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory, researchers (Muirhead et al, 2012) have rendered three super Earth-size planet candidates in the habitable zone. Credit: NASA Ames

Results continue to flow from the data. Recently, two papers of note were published:

P. Muirhead et al, 2012 – The finding reports new stellar parameters of 84 cooler late-K and M-type stars reported in the Kepler Input Catalog. Applying the new stellar radii obtained through specialized analysis using the 200-inch Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory, the research team’s re-evaluation has rendered three super Earth-size planet candidates in the habitable zone.

J. Steffen et al, 2012 – In a sample study of 63 hot Jupiter systems, planetary systems with Jupiter-size planet candidates in three day orbits, researchers found no evidence of small, companion candidates. The finding suggests that small candidates were ejected from the system, leaving large planets to later circularize into tight orbits.
Meanwhile, routine spacecraft operations continued as the operations team recently downlinked the latest month of science data (the first month of Quarter 13) without issue. The operation occurred April 30, 2012, with about 17 hours interruption in science data collection.

As noted in last month’s update, the team continues to monitor increased solar activity as our sun is exhibiting an increase in solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME). Kepler now has experienced three significant CME events, starting on Day-of-Year (DOY) 23, 27, and 67. The third event was by far the largest; a very small fourth event was observed on DOY 73. The team is pleased to report the spacecraft did not experience any major anomaly. However, the CMEs did impact the quality of the science data collected during the events. The three significant events produced noticeable changes in dark current, discernible pointing excursions, and significant flux variations for all target stars. As a result, the team has chosen to disregard the data collected during these CMEs. This has resulted in data losses of roughly 2.2, 1.0, and 4.6 days, respectively, during the three events. Their long-term impact on the spacecraft and its detectors is still under investigation, but appears to be small and non-threatening to overall mission success.

Our Science Operations Center (SOC) ground system software team continues its busy pace. The SOC 8.1 software release, deployed in March 2012, continues as the baseline pipeline software system, while the team has been focused on readying the SOC 8.2 software release for operations. As noted previously, SOC 8.2 adds features to: (a) improve corrections of the systematic errors in stellar flux time series; (b) improves sensitivity to planetary systems with two transits only; and (c) improves sensitivity to small planets in multiple planet systems. We expect to deploy this capability in late June 2012.

Finally, the Kepler team marked the third anniversary since beginning science operations. On May 12, 2009, we completed the final commissioning activities for the Kepler spacecraft and entered operations. The three years have gone by quickly, and the mission has produced many exciting discoveries. With a mission extension of four years recently granted, we expect that Kepler’s best days – and discoveries, – lie ahead.

9 Comments
box
*roll the ball

This is probably the best news i have heard since i learned about Kepler being planned and when it finally got launched.

I always wondered about the planetary systems out there, and now here we are gathering data already and we will get a couple of extra years to improve the data set. :)

I love science.

On another note, why does it take so long for forum posts to be moderated?

I find it weird at the least.

How does that help getting people involved and participate in the discussions?

Also nobody thinks that it slows down communication? Especially if we had tens or hundreds of thousands of people active here.

I have to post here, the forum is too slow for me. :)
What are you constantly complaining about authentication, slow moderation of posts etc.?

recaptcha is pretty standard for commenting on news sites or blogs and I never had any issues with slow moderation in the forum? my posts always show up immediately...

But I do agree that it is kind of strange, that for commenting on news articles you are kind of logged in to your account but are still required to type those recaptcha things... but I don't really care that much. *shrugs*
box
Then there has to be some sort of protocol in place when you start commenting here or something. Must have missed something.

You are already space station member so maybe your posts arent moderated. I am not sure.

I was just really excited when i found this place and jumped straight in, and then got disappointed because i was hoping for some good discussion but nothing happened yet because my posts havent even showed up in the forum.

Then also i am wondering why this place is so deserted when space.com is booming with views and activity.

This place is far superior if you are interested in the industry, but it seems it is like a ghost town. There should be thousands of active members who contribute regularly.

I am definitely missing something.

But what is the point of an awesome commenting system and forum when there is nobody here to comment?

Well apart from you and me.
box
Is it because of facebook?

Eventhough their plug in to do some discussion on space.com is shit as, they still have the large public and the whole sharing the comments on facebook thing that draws in from the close network of people who check out the articles.

It sucks.

I want more discussion and involvement in these topics from at least the nerds of the world, but it seems we are all over the place.

Then i also want more public involvement so there can be more money invested in these projects. But that wont happen if their attention is elsewhere.

oh well
box
Back to the actual topic:
So what do you think about a large scale interferometer in the infrared wavelength looking for planets further out from their star, and also rogue planets.

Could we actually detect and get detailed data from such cold objects?
box
I mean even planets that don't cross their star from our vantage points, and planets who would only cross it once in a couple of hundred or thousand years
I just realized that your profile tells me that you have posted in various topics in the forum, but your overall post count is still zero and none of your posts shows up. that is very strange.

you might want to write sigurd a message and ask what is wrong with your account. Or you could try Klaus Schmidt, since he is posting the news that means he is probably around on most days ;)


@ Topic
Regarding Other planets: Other telescopes use the radial velocity method to detect planets that do not cross in front of their star. But I guess bigger telescopes is always better. I wonder what the E-ELT will be capable of, when it gets finished. Another "popular" Idea is to build a large telescope on the moon, that would be really cool imho!
box
Well i wasn't thinking about specifically detecting a planet's presence, i was more thinking about actually collecting data about it's surface and atmosphere in high detail. You know like presence of liquid oceans, cloud cover, composition of the atmosphere and the oceans, any signs of life, and if we find life, what can we learn about it from spectral analysis of the continents and the oceans, if it is a planet like ours.

With higher resolution there is so much more we could do.

I can't freaking wait for those better eyes. :)

so impatient :)

i felt like that about Kepler when i learned about it, i just wanted to know how many and what kind of planets are out there straight away

I am glad there are patient hard working people out there so i can learn about stuff like this.

Thank you!
box
Ok, it seems I was just waiting for initial approval to be able to post in the forum, now my posts go through straight away. Somewhere along the line I missed some key information.

"The box has landed."

Now all im wondering about how long it will take to get us off the ground.

I am not giving up on getting millions more interested and work for it. :)
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