Kepler Mission – Aiming at a New Earth – With Alan Gould
We just finished 2 days of very exciting Kepler Science Team meetings here in Cocoa Beach FL (Mon-Tue, Mar 2-3), getting ready for Friday’s launch. We’re all extremely suspenseful, elated, and hopeful all at the same time. The science discussions were fascinating and intriguing–some about all the different types of transits we might observe with different classes of stars, different sizes of planets, shapes and periods of orbits, planets orbiting eclipsing binary stars, all stimulating thoughts of strange and wonderful new worlds. The asteroseismology team which is an alliance of European and US astronomers will play a pivotal role in characterizing the stars that have candidate planets. They even seem confident that the Kepler observations may allow them to actually record minuscule changes in stellar interiors that would be directly indicative of stellar evolution in progress.
We want the public to know that there will be no instantaneous results from this mission. After Friday’s launch, there is a couple months of commissioning the spacecraft, trying and testing all the systems to make sure they work right. Then the exhaustive continuous and simultaneous observations of 100,000 stars begins. Evidence of very short period planets (periods of only a few days) will come in quickly, but even those will have to wait months for the data validation and analysis systems to accomplish their work before confirmed discoveries can be announced.
Underlying all this is the pervasive theme: if all goes well we will soon collect REAL data that can help us begin to answer that age old question: are there other planets like Earth and if so, how common might they be?
NASA TV webcast:
Live Launch blog begins 2 hours before launch:
Co-I for NASA Kepler Mission, Education & Public Outreach