Archive for the ‘ Natalie Batalha ’ Category

Kepler Mission – Errare Humanum Est

I’ve been reflecting on the events surrounding the TED lecture by my colleague, Dimitar Sasselov.  There is disappointment in the air.  People who were misled to believe that Kepler had found many other earths out there now realize that this isn’t the case.  I understand how they must feel.  I admit that I feel a little bit disappointed too, though not for the same reason.  I and my colleagues have worked hard to understand our data and to plan out the analysis in a systematic and methodical way.  We are excited by the small, but steady stream of discoveries that we are making.  And we have full confidence that one day we will learn something profound about habitable, earth-size planets in our galaxy.  I felt a bit derailed and stunned by the announcement of 140 “earth-like” planets by my colleague.  I admit that I, like many out there, understood it to mean “earth-size” and “habitable”.  And even though I now understand that this isn’t what he meant, I admit that I still feel a bit disappointed.

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HAT-p-7b confirmation and many great things to come – With Natalie Batalha


August 5, 2009 

Exactly five months after the launch of the Kepler spacecraft, NASA will hold a press conference to present early science results.  Early science results.  I linger over those words with great pleasure.  It isn’t sufficient to simply write about the science or even comment on the mood of the science team at Ames during the days when they examined that first data transmittal.  I must rewind a bit, for there is a story here to be told.  

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Kepler Mission – Mr. Danvk, you have an answer.

In the aftermath of Kepler’s first light images a question made by danvk, a BtC reader, arrived our comment box:

In the full image there are lots of white lines that are perfectly horizontal or vertical. What are these?

Natalie Batalha, Kepler Co-Investigator, gives us a solution for the enigma:

The white streaks are CCD artifacts associated with the saturation that occurs with the very brightest stars in the field.  CCDs are constructed by putting very tiny electronic circuitry on top of a wafer of silicon.  When light strikes the silicon surface, the photons knock electrons loose.  These (negatively charged) electrons are attracted to tiny electrodes in the circuitry because they have a positive voltage applied to them.  The electrodes themselves define individual pixels.  A very bright star will liberate so many electrons that they pile up and literally spill over to the adjacent pixel (electrode).  They spill in the direction of least resistance and that happens to be in the direction that the electrodes are chained together (up and down the columns in our case).  When spillover occurs, we call this “saturation.”  In the image, you see that some of the saturation bleeds are vertical while others are horizontal.  The individual ccds (the rectangles) were mosaic’d so that we could rotate the spacecraft 90 degrees each quarter (to keep the solar panels pointing at the Sun) and still have the image look the same (rotational symmetry).  If you train your eye on the gaps between the rectangles, you can see that they form a bit of a spiral pattern.  That’s the rotational symmetry pattern due to the orientation of the individual CCDs.

Kepler mission – stellar smear and a grain of salt

After yesterday’s release of Kepler’s first light images and being marvelled by the telescope’s full field of view I was here wondering how would look one of the several raw images composing that breathtaking view into a sea of stars.

And, now that we’re into the real stuff and aware that we won’t hear of an Earth-like planet until the team has full confirmation, for when, hipotetically, could we expect one of those candidates to make its first appearance? How soon can it be?

Natalie Batalha answers:

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Kepler mission – It’s full of stars!

Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

Here’s what you have been waiting for, NASA Kepler’s full field of view – an expansive star-rich patch of sky in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra stretching across 100 square degrees, or the equivalent of two side-by-side dips of the Big Dipper.

And now let us stay with Jon Jenkins, Kepler’s Co-Investigator:

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Kepler’s Prima Lux – A Human Endeavor – With Natalie Batalha

Kepler’s first light also marks, for Beyond the Cradle, the arrival of a very special collaborator, someone who, I am sure, will be capable of taking us, with her passion, on great journeys towards the worlds to come. It is with great joy that I open BtC’s doors to Natalie Batalha, Kepler Co-Investigator (to know more about Natalie visit the Collaborators page):


We received word on Monday afternoon:  



The reviews conducted to ascertain readiness for the ejection of the cover on the Kepler photometer are finished. We now have permission to move the photometer axis into the ecliptic plane and eject the cover…

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Kepler Mission at Around the World in 80 Telescopes – With Natalie Batalha


Missed it? Don’t  do it again…

Kepler Mission – First Light Update – With Jon Jenkins

We’ve all been here walking from one side of the room to the other, eagerly waiting for that special moment, the moment when Kepler peels of its sleep mask and awakes up, beholding the stars ahead, capturing its first light.

Well…it looks like Kepler is already slightly opening its dreamy eyes to the Milky Way!

It is like when you are sleeping and the blinds allow the first rays of the morning Sun to pass, touching your eyelids, calling you for a whole new day ahead…


Let us read what BtC collaborator, Jon Jenkins, Kepler Co-Investigator, had to tell us:


jenkins_jon_3_enh11We had our “first light” already with some sunlight making it in around the dust cover, but found a different attitude at which almost no light entered the telescope so that we could get a good dark frame for comparison with preflight test, and that can be used to formulate some of our calibration products. In retrospect, it’s nice to see that all 42 science CCDs and 4 Fine Guidance Sensor CCDs are responding to light as well as behaving as expected in dark frames.

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Quick Kepler note

Just got a message from Kepler Co-Investigator Natalie Batalha, San José State University, informing us that 

a couple of minor glitches will probably delay “first light”

by a couple of days or so.

Overall, though, everything is going very well.

Looks like we’ll have to wait a bit more…guess it will only entice our curiosity…

Stay alert for more details.

EDITED on March 25, 7.58 AM UTC:

Natalie Batalha explained us the reason for the slight delay:

It took longer than expected to get really good calibration images.

 We did an extra telescope pointing just to be sure we got what we needed.

Still according to Batalha, there were some commemorations over Kepler’s “beautiful “dark” exposures”…

Now…let there be light!


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