Let the games begin! Starlight is falling on our detectors, so now hopefully it is only a matter of time before the remaining hurdles are jumped and the Kepler mission reports the first Earth-sized planets. This could prove an historic juncture for our sense of our place in the Universe. There will need to be some patience; the first planets we find will again be “hot jupiters” (because they are so easy). I’m predicting that the first terrestrial planets announced in a habitable zone will be around the small cool stars that are the most common in our Galaxy. That is again because those are the easiest sort for Kepler to detect. It may be a year before such an announcement. Kudos to all the team members who produced a working spacecraft, and got it into the right place and condition!
Gibor Basri, Co-Investigator
University of California-Berkeley, Dept. of Astronomy
We popped the cork on the champagne about 15 minutes past 7 pm PDT after watching the breathtaking signature of the dust cover release in the Doppler residuals at DSS 26 (Goldstone) and in the spacecraft telemetry. There was quite a “twang” when it happened and we saw the reaction wheels spin up to counter the nudge the departing cover imparted to the photometer and we saw that the Fine Guidance Sensors are responding to starlight entering the barrel of the photometer. Now our real work begins in earnest!
Jon Jenkins, Co-Investigator