Archive for the ‘ Exoplanets ’ Category


On June 16th, Scientific American posted a quite amazing, quite historic story on its web site that went largely unnoticed by the Outside World. Outside the astronomy community that is; more specifically, outside the residents of the Wisteria Lane of the astronomy community that is interested in the hunt for and study of exo-planets – planets that circle other stars Out There in the Great Black.

The SciAm story was announcing that KEPLER, the planet-hunting telescope, has identified more than 700 candidate planets in orbit around faraway, alien suns. That on its own made the story exciting. But tucked away in the report was one line, one quote, that when I read it literally made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end…

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HAT-p-7b and the Grail quest – With Jon Jenkins

jenkins_jon_3_enh11I went to bed the evening of May 13th exhausted from the long, intense campaign of commissioning the Kepler spacecraft. The long march started about a week after launch when we began to receive data from the photometer and needed to process it to verify that it was behaving as we expected and to prepare all the data products needed for nominal science operations. These included taking very special data sets to characterize the 2D bias frame of the CCDs (the image you get with no light falling on the detectors), the noise characteristics, the sky to pixel mapping, the science data compression tables, and the detailed shape of the stellar images (the Point Spread Functions) across the focal plane. We had been calculating the PSFs and getting our first science target tables together while the Combined Differential Photometric Precision (CDPP) data set was being collected during the last ten days of Commissioning. This was the first science-like data to be collected. So we had a target table in place with 52,496 targets and were compressing the 30-minute samples for each pixel of interest and storing these on board the Solid State Recorder. (During nominal science operations we collect pixel data for ~145,000 stars.) On Monday May 11 we turned the spacecraft to point the High Gain Antenna to Earth and downlinked the CDPP data set, all ten days of it, to the Deep Space Network, who transferred it through our Ground System* to the Science Operations Center at NASA Ames Research Center where we process the pixels, extract the photometric light curves and search for transiting planets. Nominal science operations commenced on May 12 and we could turn our attention to processing the CDPP data.

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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’s Challenge – With Lewis Dartnell

With the thunderous launch of the Delta II rocket this weekend, not only was the Kepler space telescope lofted into the sky, but also our hopes of finding a Second Earth. But now, after those few minutes of intense excitement, comes several months of impatient waiting.


Kepler will spend the next two months being put through its paces, testing its ability to acquire guide stars, maintain absolute accuracy in its orientation, and successfully beam data back to Earth. After this commissioning phase, Kepler will enter active scientific service sometime this Spring.

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Fridlund ahead!

From the spacEurope ages, there was a presence who marked the difference for the good will with which always replied to every solicitation, including the fact of making himself available to answer a set of questions posed directly by the readers.


That man was Malcolm Fridlund, ESA COROT Project Scientist.

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Innumerable Suns Exist

Living beings inhabit these worlds.” 

“Innumerable suns exist; innumerable earths revolve around these suns in a manner similar to the way the seven planets revolve around our sun. 



Giordano Bruno (1548-1600)


More than 400 hundreds separate the vision defended by Giordano Bruno of the existence of other suns and other worlds beyond the solar system, more than 400 years were required for the first confirmation of a planet orbiting another star besides our Sun.

Now, in the first years of the XXI century, as we speak, our eyes are set in the distance.

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