NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Follow this link to skip to the main content + Contact NASA
Kepler Guest Observer Program

Kepler Astrophysics News
+kepler blog    +mission status    +KASC news

FIRST EARTH-SIZE PLANET IN HABITABLE ZONE
MAY 17, 2014

Using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the "habitable zone" - the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun. While planets have previously been found in the habitable zone, they are all at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth and understanding their makeup is challenging. Kepler-186f is more reminiscent of Earth. +read more.

K2 APPROVED FOR SCIENCE OPERATIONS BY NASA
MAY 16, 2014

The Kepler mission extension is approved for FY 2015-FY 2016 for K2 operations. Additional funding will be provided for closeout of prime mission at a level to be determined through the budget formulation process supplemented by the closeout proposal review. Guidelines provided for FY 2017-FY 2018, including completion of both K2 and closeout in FY 2017, will be revisited in Senior Review 2016. The Kepler mission will be invited to the 2016 Astrophysics Senior Review for consideration of the third year of the K2 extension. +read more.

NASA'S KEPLER MISSION ANNOUNCES A PLANET BONANZA, 715 NEW WORLDS
FEB 26, 2014

NASA's Kepler mission announces the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system. Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system. The research team used a technique called verification by multiplicity, which relies in part on the logic of probability. Kepler observes 150,000 stars, and has found a few thousand of those to have planet candidates. If the candidates were randomly distributed among Kepler's stars, only a handful would have more than one planet candidate. However, Kepler observed hundreds of stars that have multiple planet candidates. Through a careful study of this sample, these 715 new planets were verified. +read more.

KEPLER FINDS A VERY WOBBLY PLANET
FEB 04, 2014

Imagine living on a planet with seasons so unpredictable you would hardly know what to wear: Bermuda shorts or a heavy overcoat! That's the situation on a weird world found by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope. The planet, designated Kepler-413b, is located 2,300 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. It circles a close pair of orange and red dwarf stars every 66 days. But what makes this planet very unusual is that it wobbles, or precesses, wildly on its spin axis, much like a child's top. The planet's orbit is tilted with respect to the plane of the binary star's orbit. Over an 11-year period, the planet's orbit too would appear to wobble as it circles around the star pair. All of this complex movement leads to rapid and erratic changes in seasons. +read more.

TWO-WHEEL KEPLER MISSION INVITED TO 2014 SENIOR REVIEW
DEC 04, 2013

Based on an independent science and technical review of the Kepler project's concept for a Kepler two-wheel mission extension, Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division director, has decided to invite Kepler to the Senior Review for astrophysics operating missions in early 2014. The Kepler team's proposal, dubbed K2, demonstrated a clever and feasible methodology for accurately controlling the Kepler spacecraft at the level of precision required for scientifically valuable data collection. The team must now further validate the concept and submit a Senior Review proposal that requests the funding necessary to continue the Kepler mission, with sufficient scientific justification to make it a viable option for the use of NASA's limited resources. This is not a decision to continue operating the Kepler spacecraft or to conduct a two-wheel extended mission; it is however an opportunity to write another proposal and compete against the Astrophysics division's other projects for the limited funding available for astrophysics operating missions. NASA uses the Senior Review process to assist in allocating its limited budget for operating missions during their extended phase. This activity takes place every two years, with the last astrophysics senior review being held in April 2012. The Senior Review Committee evaluates the anticipated science productivity of each mission over the next four years, focusing on the next two years. NASA will use the report of the Senior Review Committee in deciding which astrophysics missions to continue operating in FY2015 and FY2016. Astrophysics projects that will be evaluated during the 2014 Senior Review include Hubble, Chandra, Fermi, Kepler, NuSTAR, Spitzer, Suzaku, Swift, XMM-Newton and WISE (MaxWISE).

PREVALENCE OF EARTH-SIZE PLANETS ORBITING SUN-LIKE STARS
NOV 04, 2013

A major question is whether planets suitable for biochemistry are common or rare in the universe. Small rocky planets with liquid water enjoy key ingredients for biology. We used the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Kepler telescope to survey 42,000 Sun-like stars for periodic dimmings that occur when a planet crosses in front of its host star. An independent search of the Kepler legacy archive has found 603 planets, 10 of which are Earth size and orbit in the habitable zone, where conditions permit surface liquid water. The authors measured the detectability of these planets by injecting synthetic planet-caused dimmings into Kepler brightness measurements. they found that 22% of Sun-like stars harbor Earth-size planets orbiting in their habitable zones. The nearest such planet may be within 12 light-years. +read more.

A GIANT MISALIGNMENT IN A MULTIPLE PLANET SYSTEM
OCT 18, 2013

Theory suggests that hot Jupiters form in long orbits and then quiescently migrate through the protoplanetary disc, the flat ring of dust and debris that circles a newly fashioned star and coalesces to form the planets. This theory was challenged when the orbital plane of hot Jupiters were discovered to be frequently misaligned with the equator of their host stars. Scientists interpreted this as evidence that hot Jupiters are the result of chaotic close encounters with other planets. A decisive test between the two theories are systems with more than one planet: if misalignments are indeed caused by dynamical perturbations, then multi-planet systems without hot Jupiters should be preferentially aligned. What new research reveals is quite different. Kepler-56, a red giant star reveals a rotation axis tilted by about 45 degrees to our line of sight. The culprit for the misalignment is suspected to be a third, massive companion in a long period orbit. The Kepler-56 system marks an important step towards a unified explanation for the formation of hot Jupiters. Orbital misalignments are not just confined to hot Jupiter systems.+read more.

SCIENTISTS DISCOVER THE FIRST EARTH-SIZED ROCKY PLANET
OCT 30, 2013

Astronomers have discovered the first Earth-sized planet outside the solar system that has a rocky composition like that of Earth. Kepler-78b whizzes around its host star every 8.5 hours, making it a blazing inferno and not suitable for life as we know it. The results are published in two papers in the journal Nature. Two independent research teams then used ground-based telescopes to confirm and characterize Kepler-78b. To determine the planet's mass, the teams employed the radial velocity method to measure how much the gravitation tug of an orbiting planet causes its star to wobble. A handful of planets the size or mass of Earth have been discovered. Kepler-78b is the first to have both a measured mass and size. With both quantities known, scientists can calculate a density and determine what the planet is made of. Kepler-78b is 1.2 times the size of Earth and 1.7 times more massive, resulting in a density that is the same as Earth's. This suggests that Kepler-78b is also made primarily of rock and iron. Its star is slightly smaller and less massive than the sun and is located about 400 light-years from Earth +read more and more.

NASA SPACE TELESCOPES FIND PATCHY CLOUDS ON EXOTIC WORLD
SEP 30, 2013

Astronomers using data from NASA's Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes have created the first cloud map of a planet beyond our solar system, a sizzling, Jupiter-like world known as Kepler-7b. The planet is marked by high clouds in the west and clear skies in the east. Previous studies from Spitzer have resulted in temperature maps of planets orbiting other stars, but this is the first look at cloud structures on a distant world. Kepler's visible-light observations of Kepler-7b's moon-like phases led to a rough map of the planet that showed a bright spot on its western hemisphere. But these data were not enough on their own to decipher whether the bright spot was coming from clouds or heat. Spitzer's ability to detect infrared light means it was able to measure Kepler-7b's temperature, estimating it to be between 1,100 and 1,300 K. This is relatively cool for a planet that orbits within 0.06 astronomical units from it's host star, too cool to be the source of light Kepler observed. Light from the planet's star is bouncing off cloud tops located on the west side of the planet. +read more.

WHITE PAPERS FOR FUTURE SCIENCE INVESTIGATIONS WITH KEPLER
SEP 03, 2013

The call for white papers describing potential scientific opportunities for Kepler operating with two reactions wheels is now closed. Papers submitted by the community are available online. White papers will be combined by the Kepler Project Office into a report to NASA HQ by Sep 27, 2013.

MIT TEAM DISCOVERS AN EXOPLANET THAT ORBITS ITS STAR IN 8.5 HOURS
AUG 19, 2013

Researchers at MIT have discovered an Earth-sized exoplanet named Kepler 78b that whips around its host star in a mere 8.5 hours — one of the shortest orbital periods ever detected. The planet is extremely close to its star — its orbital radius is only about three times the radius of the star — and the scientists have estimated that its surface temperatures may be as high as 3,000 degrees Kelvin, or more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In such a scorching environment, the top layer of the planet is likely completely melted, creating a massive, roiling ocean of lava. What’s most exciting to scientists is that they were able to detect light emitted by the planet — the first time that researchers have been able to do so for an exoplanet as small as Kepler 78b. This light, once analyzed with larger telescopes, may give scientists detailed information about the planet’s surface composition and reflective properties. Kepler 78b is so close to its star that scientists hope to measure its gravitational influence on the star. Such information may be used to measure the planet’s mass, which could make Kepler 78b the first Earth-sized planet outside our own solar system whose mass is known. +read more.

NASA ENDS ATTEMPTS TO FULLY RECOVER KEPLER SPACECRAFT, POTENTIAL NEW MISSIONS CONSIDERED
AUG 15, 2013

Following months of analysis and testing, the Kepler Space Telescope team is ending its attempts to restore the spacecraft to full working order, and now is considering what new science research it can carry out in its current condition. On Aug. 8, engineers conducted a system-level performance test to evaluate Kepler's current capabilities. They determined wheel 2, which failed last year, can no longer provide the precision pointing necessary for the collection of science data for its primary program. The spacecraft was returned to its point rest state, which is a stable configuration where Kepler uses thrusters to control its pointing with minimal fuel use. An engineering study will be conducted on the modifications required to manage science operations with the spacecraft using a combination of its remaining two good reaction wheels and thrusters for spacecraft attitude control. Informed by contributions from the broader science community in response to the call for scientific white papers announced Aug. 2, the Kepler project team will perform a study to identify possible science opportunities for a two-wheel Kepler mission. Depending on the outcome of these studies, which are expected to be completed later this year, NASA will assess the scientific priority of a two-wheel Kepler mission. Such an assessment may include prioritization relative to other NASA astrophysics missions competing for operational funding at the NASA Senior Review board early next year. +read more.

A REQUEST FOR INFORMATION CONCERNING APPROACHES TO TWO-REACTION WHEEL HYBRID CONTROL OF THE KEPLER SPACECRAFT
AUG 14, 2013

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is seeking to obtain information on innovative approaches for spacecraft hybrid attitude control that employ mixed-actuator combinations of two reaction wheels and reaction control thrusters. Specifically NASA is seeking innovative hybrid attitude control approaches for the distressed Kepler spacecraft which has suffered performance anomalies with two of its four-reaction wheel attitude control actuators. NASA is interested in identifying potential organizations that are capable of generating innovative spacecraft hybrid attitude control approaches. In particular the NESC is directly supporting the Kepler Project Office engineering and science staff with the identification of potential spacecraft hybrid attitude control approaches. The NESC is seeking information via this Request for Information (RFI) in an attempt to identify noteworthy hybrid control ideas, innovations and approaches that would allow NASA to continue its use of the Kepler observatory's remaining functional capabilities to accomplish potentially new and different scientific objectives. The NESC is primarily interested in identifying those hybrid control approaches that will enable the most compelling new science observations envisioned for a re-purposed Kepler science mission. The NESC will review all submissions received in response to this RFI. NASA reserves the right to follow up with those responding organizations that present viable approaches for hybrid control. +read more.

SOLICITING COMMUNITY INPUT FOR ALTERNATE SCIENCE INVESTIGATIONS WITH THE KEPLER SPACECRAFT
AUG 02, 2013

Kepler has lost the use of two of its four reaction wheels. These reaction wheels were used to keep the telescope in fine point during long duration (weeks to months) observations of the Kepler field of view. Kepler requires three reaction wheels to deliver the high-precision photometry necessary for small exoplanet detection. If one of the two reaction wheels cannot be returned to operation, it is unlikely that the spacecraft will resume the nominal Kepler exoplanet and astrophysics mission. NASA has announced a call for white papers to solicit community input for alternate science investigations that may be performed using Kepler and are consistent with its probable two-wheel performance. If an appropriate science case(s) and cost envelope is found, the re-purposed mission will continue to be operated out of NASA Ames Research Center and make use of the nominal mission project office personnel and expertise already in place. The call for white papers and initial information as to the preliminary assessment of the pointing ability of the Kepler spacecraft using only two reaction wheels are provided. A FAQ for the call is maintained here. An initial pointing study for kepler two-wheel operation can be downloaded here. Note also there is a related, yet separate call for information for spacecraft two-reaction wheel hybrid control approaches.

KEPLER SCIENCE CONFERENCE II WILL BE HELD NOV 4-8, 2013
AUG 02, 2013

We are happy to announce that the Second Kepler Science Conference will be held as planned at the NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California, from November 4 to 8, 2013. In spite of the problems associated with the US federal budget, we have received final approval to proceed with the conference as originally conceived. Please alert your colleagues about this announcement, and plan on joining us at NASA Ames to celebrate the scientific discoveries made by NASA's Kepler Mission. Registration and abstract submission will is open and the Abstract deadline is September 6. +read more.

PLANET DISCOVERED BY THE DETECTION OF DOPPLER BOOSTING
MAY 13, 2013

A team at Tel Aviv University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has just discovered an exoplanet using a new method that relies on Einstein's special theory of relativity. The new method looks for three small effects in Kepler light curves that occur simultaneously as a planet orbits the star. Einstein's "beaming" effect causes the star to brighten as it moves toward us, tugged by the planet, and dim as it moves away. The brightening results from photons "piling up" in energy, as well as light getting focused in the direction of the star's motion due to relativistic effects. This is the first time that this aspect of Einstein's theory of relativity has been used to discover a planet. Kepler-76b is a transiting planet, twice the mass of Jupiter, in a 1.54 day orbit. +read more.

KEPLER'S SMALLEST HABITABLE ZONE PLANETS
APR 18, 2013

We're a step closer to knowing if our galaxy is home to a multitude of planets like Earth or if we are a rarity. The three habitable zone super-Earth-size planets are in two systems containing a total of seven newly discovered planets: Star Kepler-62 is not Sun-like: just 2/3 the size of the Sun, cooler, older, and only 1/5 as bright. Planet Kepler-62f, 40% larger than Earth, the smallest known habitable zone exoplanet, orbits every 267 days. Planet Kepler-62e, about 60% larger than Earth, orbits every 122 days in the the habitable zone's inner edge. Star Kepler-69 is a sun-like star (G-type, 93% the size of the Sun, 80% as luminous, about 2,700 light-years from Earth). Planet Kepler-69c is 70% larger than Earth, the smallest yet found in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. It orbits in 242 days, resembling the orbit of Venus. +read more. +and more.

A TRANSITING CIRCUMBINARY PLANET IN A QUADRUPLE STAR SYSTEM FROM CITIZEN SCIENCE
MAR 29, 2013

PH1b is the first confirmed exoplanet discovery from the Planet Hunters citizen science project. The 6.18 Earth radii planet orbits outside the 20-day orbit of an eclipsing binary consisting of an F dwarf ( 1.734 x the Radius of the Sun) and M dwarf ( 0.378 x the Radius of the Sun). For the planet, we find an upper mass limit of 169 Earth masses (0.531 Jupiter masses) at the 99.7% confidence level. With a radius and mass less than that of Jupiter, PH1b is a bona fide planet. Not all planet candidates can be confirmed as we could with PH1b. Since PH1b is orbiting an eclipsing binary, we could use the fact that there are no changes in the timing of the stellar eclipses due to the planet to constrain PH1b’s mass. +read more.

KEPLER-37B, A PLANET ONLY SLIGHTLY LARGER THAN THE MOON
FEB 20, 2013

NASA's Kepler mission scientists have discovered a new planetary system that is home to the smallest planet yet found around a star similar to our sun. The planets are located in a system called Kepler-37, about 210 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. The smallest planet, Kepler-37b, is slightly larger than our moon, measuring about one-third the size of Earth. It is smaller than Mercury, which made its detection a challenge. However, while the star in Kepler-37 may be similar to our sun, the system appears quite unlike the solar system in which we live. Astronomers think Kepler-37b does not have an atmosphere and cannot support life as we know it. The tiny planet almost certainly is rocky in composition. Kepler-37c, the closer neighboring planet, is slightly smaller than Venus, measuring almost three-quarters the size of Earth. Kepler-37d, the farther planet, is twice the size of Earth. +read more.

EARTH-LIKE PLANETS ARE RIGHT NEXT DOOR
FEB 06, 2013

Using publicly available data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have found that six percent of red dwarf stars have habitable, Earth-sized planets. Since red dwarfs are the most common stars in our galaxy, the closest Earth-like planet could be just 13 light-years away."We thought we would have to search vast distances to find an Earth-like planet. Now we realize another Earth is probably in our own backyard, waiting to be spotted", said Harvard astronomer and lead author Courtney Dressing. +read more.

42 NEW PLANET CANDIDATES DELIVERED BY CITIZEN SCIENCE
JAN 08, 2013

In a paper submitted to the Astrophysical Journal, Planet Hunter volunteers have discovered 42 new planet candidates in the Kepler public archive data, of which 33 have at least three transits recorded. Most of these transit candidates have orbital periods longer than 100 days and 20 are potentially located in the habitable zones of their host stars. Nine candidates were detected with only two transit events and the prospective periods are longer than 400 days. The photometric models suggest that these objects have radii that range between Neptune to Jupiter. These detections nearly double the number of gas giant planet candidates orbiting at habitable zone distances. Planet Hunters is a citizen science project that crowd-sources the assessment of NASA Kepler light curves. The discovery of these 43 planet candidates demonstrates the success of citizen scientists at identifying planet candidates, even in longer period orbits with only two or three transit events. +read more.

17 BILLION EARTH-SIZE PLANETS IN THE MILKY WAY
JAN 07, 2013

Measuring the frequencies of extrasolar planets requires knowledge of the incidence of false positives such as eclipsing binaries in the background of the targets, or physically bound to them, which can mimic the photometric signal of a transiting planet. From the Kepler Objects of Interest detected during the first six quarters of operation of the spacecraft, Francois Fressin and co-worker infer the false positive rate of Kepler and study its dependence on spectral type, candidate planet size, and orbital period. They find that the global false positive rate of Kepler is 9.4%, peaking for giant planets at 17.7%, reaching a low of 6.7% for small Neptunes, and increasing again for Earth-size planets to 12.3 %. They also quantify and characterize the distribution and rate of occurrence of planets down to Earth size by subtracting from the population of Kepler candidates a simulated population of astrophysical false positives. They find that 16.5 +/- 3.6% of main-sequence FGK stars have at least one planet between 0.8 and 1.25 Earth radii with orbital periods up to 85 days. +read more

NASA'S KEPLER MISSION PRESENTS 461 NEW PLANET CANDIDATES
JAN 07, 2013

NASA's Kepler mission announces the discovery of 461 new planet candidates. Four of the potential new planets are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their sun's habitable zone, the region in the planetary system where liquid water might exist on the surface of a planet. The findings, based on observations conducted May 2009 to March 2011, show a steady increase in the number of smaller-size planet candidates and the number of stars with more than one candidate. There is no better way to kick-off the start of the Kepler extended mission than to increase the number of possible outposts on the frontier of potentially life bearing worlds, said Christopher Burke, Kepler scientist at the SETI Institute, Mountain View, Calif., who is leading the analysis. Since the last catalog was released in February 2012, the number of candidates identified in the Kepler data has increased by 20 percent and now totals 2,740 potential planets transiting 2,036 stars. The cumulative candidate count includes over 350 Earth-size planet candidates and more than 1,100 that are smaller than twice Earth-size. +read more.

SPIN DOWN OF THE CORE ROTATION IN RED GIANTS
SEP 14, 2012

Kepler provides asteroseismologists with long and uninterrupted photometric time series of red giants with which they are now able to probe the rotational behavior in their deep interiors using the observations of mixed modes. Benoit Mosser and collaborators have developed a dedicated method for automated measurements of the rotational splittings in a large number of red giants. Ensemble asteroseismology - the examination of a large number of red giants at different stages of their evolution - allows them to derive global information on stellar evolution. They measured rotational splittings in a sample of 300 red giants and shown that these splittings are dominated by core rotation. They observe an increase of the core rotation of stars ascending the red giant branch and a slow down for red-clump stars compared to the red giant branch. At fixed stellar radius, the specific angular momentum increases with increasing stellar mass. Ensemble asteroseismology indicates what has been indirectly suspected for a while: the mean core rotation significantly slows down during the red giant phase. The slow-down occurs in the last stages of the red giant branch. This spinning down explains, for instance, the long rotation periods measured in white dwarfs +read more

KEPLER-47: THE FIRST BINARY STAR TWO-PLANET SYSTEM
AUG 28, 2012

The Kepler mission has discovered Kepler-47b and 47c, the first transiting circumbinary system with multiple planets orbiting two suns. To compound the excitement of the discovery, one of those planets is in the binary system's habitable zone where liquid water may exist. While the inner planet, Kepler-47b, orbits in less than 50 days and must be a sweltering world, the outer planet, Kepler-47c, orbits every 303 days, putting it in the habitable zone. Kepler-47c is however slightly larger than Neptune, and in the realm of gaseous giant planets, difficult to imagine as well-suited to life. That does not preclude the chance that it has large a moon with a solid surface and liquid water lakes or seas. The binary system is 4,900 light-years from Earth. The stars orbiting each other very fast, eclipsing each other every 7.5 days. One star is similar to the Sun in size, but only 84 percent as bright. The second star is a red dwarf star only one-third the size of the Sun and less than one percent as bright. +read more

KEPLER-38: THE GALAXY'S COUNT OF BINARY STARS WITH PLANETS IS INCREASING
AUG 20, 2012

Since about one third of all stars are either binary or multiple star systems, finding planets in binary star systems has important implications not only for estimating the total numbers of planets that exist, but for how star-planet systems form. Binary stars are also highly valued by astronomers because measuring their orbital properties allows us to directly compute the masses of the component stars. If the stars also eclipse each other, we can further determine stellar properties such as the radius and density. For planets orbiting binary stars, there are "S-type" planets and "P-type" planets. An S-type planet orbits one of the stars only, whereas a P-type planet orbits both stars (also called circumbinary). With Kepler-38, the count of confirmed Kepler binary stars with circumbinary planets has increased to 4. All of the first four Kepler circumbinary planets, Kepler-16b, Kepler-34b, and Kepler-35b, and Kepler-38b, have radii smaller than Jupiter’s and orbits that are only modestly larger than what would be required for a stable orbit. Kepler-38b, is roughly Neptune-size, with a radius 4.35 times Earth radius. It is in a 106 day orbit around a binary star consisting of a larger star 1.76 times the radius of the Sun, but only 0.95 times the mass of the Sun, paired with a low-mass star 0.27 times the radius of the Sun and 25% the mass of the Sun. +read more

A FAR-OFF SOLAR SYSTEM
JUL 25, 2012

Researchers at MIT, the University of California at Santa Cruz and other institutions have detected the first exoplanetary system, 10,000 light years away, with regularly aligned orbits similar to those in our solar system. At the center of this faraway system is Kepler-30, a star as bright and massive as the Sun. After analyzing data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, the MIT scientists and their colleagues discovered that the star — much like the sun — rotates around a vertical axis and its three planets have orbits that are all in the same plane. Their findings, inferring that hot Jupiter systems may indeed form via planetary scattering, may help explain the origins of certain far-flung systems while shedding light on our own planetary neighborhood. +read more

ALIEN WORLD LOOMS LARGE IN ITS NEIGHBOR WORLD'S SKY
JUN 21, 2012

Astronomer's using the Kepler Mission data have published the discovery of a star, Kepler-36, 1200 light-years away, with two planets orbiting very close to each other but with very dissimilar densities. The inner world, Kepler-36b, is a rocky planet 1.5 times the size of Earth and weighing 4.5 times as much. It orbits every 14 days at an average distance of less than 11 million miles, whereas the outer world, Kepler-36c, orbits at a distance of 12 million miles, every 16 days, and is a gaseous planet 3.7 times the size of Earth. The authors believe the smaller planet is 30 percent iron, less than 1 percent atmospheric hydrogen and helium and probably no more than 15 percent water. The larger planet, by contrast, likely has a rocky core surrounded by a substantial amount of atmospheric hydrogen and helium, a hot Neptune. The two planets have a close approach every 97 days, when they are separated by less than 5 Earth-Moon distances. At those times Kepler-36c would present a spectacular view in the sky of the smaller rocky Kepler-36b and both planets would experience significant tidal forces. Kepler-36 presents a puzzle as to how these two very different worlds ended up in such close orbits. Within our solar system, rocky planets reside close to the Sun while the gas giants remain distant. +read more

ALMOST ALL OF KEPLER'S MULTIPLE-PLANET CANDIDATES ARE PLANETS
MAY 10, 2012

Within a sample of 63 hot Jupiter systems, Steffen et al. (2012) find that in such systems with < 3 day orbits, there is 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. +read more

EARTH-BASED OBSERVATIONS LEAD TO KEPLER PLANET CANDIDATES IN HABITABLE ZONES
APR 24, 2012

Work by Phil Muirhead et al. has been published in the Astrophysical Journal. The paper reports revised temperatures, masses, metallicities, and radii for 84 Kepler planet-candidate host stars, most of which are red dwarf stars. The new stellar radii are significantly less than the values previously reported. Applying the published Kepler transit parameters, the paper's authors report new physical radii for the planet candidates, new equilibrium temperatures of the planet-candidates, and that 3 of the planet-candidates are terrestrial-sized with orbital semi-major axes that lie within the habitable zones of their host stars (KOI 463.01, KOI 812.03 and KOI 854.01). +read more

ALMOST ALL OF KEPLER'S MULTIPLE-PLANET CANDIDATES ARE PLANETS
APR 23, 2012

Jack Lissauer and collaborators present a statistical analysis that demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of Kepler candidate multiple transiting systems indeed represent true, physically associated transiting planets. Binary stars provide the primary source of false positives among Kepler planet candidates, implying that false positives should be nearly randomly distributed among Kepler targets. There are more than one hundred times as many Kepler planet candidates in multi-candidate systems as would be predicted from a random distribution of candidates, implying that the vast majority are true planets. +read more

NASA APPROVES KEPLER MISSION EXTENSION
APR 04, 2012

NASA's Kepler mission has been approved for extension through fiscal year 2016 based on a recommendation from the Agency’s Senior Review of its operating missions. Excerpt from the 2012 Senior Review report: "Kepler offers a new technical capability, opening a new measurement parameter space, and as often happens with such developments, that has led to unexpected results…. There has been a continuous stream of new findings - the assimilation and exploitation of new opportunities is just beginning...". +read more

POSSIBLE DISINTEGRATING SHORT-PERIOD SUPER-MERCURY
MAR 21, 2012

Saul Rappaport and collaborators report on the discovery of stellar occultations, observed with Kepler, that recur periodically at 15.685 hour intervals, but which vary in depth from a maximum of 1.3% to a minimum that can be less than 0.2%. They cannot be due solely to transits of a single planet with a fixed size. Rappaport et al. come down in favor of an explanation that involves macroscopic particles escaping the atmosphere of a slowly disintegrating planet not much larger than Mercury. The occultation profile could reflect a comet-like dust tail trailing the planet. +read more

PLANETARY CANDIDATES DETECTED BY KEPLER DURING THE FIRST 16 MONTHS OF DATA COLLECTION
FEB 28, 2012

1,091 new transiting planet candidates have emerged from analysis of Kepler spacecraft data spanning May 2009 to September 2010, bringing the total count to 2,321 Kepler planet candidates orbiting 1,790 host stars. The fraction of host stars with multiple candidates has grown from 17% to 20%. The cumulative catalog now contains over 200 Earth-size planet candidates and more than 900 super-Earths. Of the 46 planet candidates found in the habitable zone, 10 are near-Earth-size. A clear trend toward smaller planets at longer orbital periods is evident with each new catalog release. This suggests that Earth-size planets in the habitable zone are forthcoming if, indeed, such planets are abundant. Data and sample analyses are presented in Batalha et al. (2012). An updated table of planet candidates is archived within the Kepler data archive at MAST, and a sortable, filterable table with orbital ephemeris and light curve folding tools at NExScI's Exoplanet Archive.

KEPLER ANNOUNCES 11 PLANETARY SYSTEMS HOSTING 26 PLANETS
JAN 26, 2012

NASA's Kepler mission has discovered 11 new planetary systems hosting 26 confirmed planets. These discoveries nearly double the number of verified planets and triple the number of stars known to have more than one planet that transits, or passes in front of, the star. Such systems will help astronomers better understand how planets form. The planets orbit close to their host stars and range in size from 1.5 times the radius of Earth to larger than Jupiter. Fifteen are between Earth and Neptune in size. Further observations will be required to determine which are rocky like Earth and which have thick gaseous atmospheres like Neptune. The planets orbit their host star once every six to 143 days. All are closer to their host star than Venus is to our sun. +read more

KEPLER MISSION FINDS THREE SMALLEST EXOPLANETS
JAN 11, 2012

Astronomers using data from NASA's Kepler mission have discovered the three smallest planets yet detected orbiting a star beyond our sun. The planets orbit a single star, called KOI-961, and are 0.78, 0.73 and 0.57 times the radius of Earth. The smallest is about the size of Mars. All three planets are thought to be rocky like Earth, but orbit close to their star. That makes them too hot to be in the habitable zone, which is the region where liquid water could exist. Of the more than 700 planets confirmed to orbit other stars -- called exoplanets -- only a handful are known to be rocky. +read more

KEPLER DISCOVERY OF TWO MORE CIRCUMBINARY PLANETS ESTABLISHES NEW CLASS
JAN 11, 2012

Kepler astronomers announced the discovery of two new transiting “circumbinary” planet systems – planets that orbit two stars. This work establishes that such “two sun” planets are not rare exceptions, but are in fact common with many millions existing in our Galaxy. While long anticipated in both science and science fiction, the existence of a circumbinary planet orbiting a pair of normal stars was not definitively established until the discovery of Kepler-16 b, announced by the Kepler Team last September. Like Kepler-16 b, these new planets also transit (eclipse) their host stars, making their existence unambiguous. When only Kepler-16 b was known, many questions remained about the nature of circumbinary planets – what kinds of orbits, masses, radii, temperatures, etc., could they have? And most of all, was Kepler-16 b just a fluke? With the discovery of Kepler-34 b and 35 b, astronomers can now answer many of those questions and begin to study an entirely new class of planets. +read more

A COMPACT SYSTEM OF SMALL PLANETS AROUND A FORMER RED-GIANT STAR
DEC 21, 2011

Planets that orbit their parent star at less than about 1 AU are expected to be engulfed when the star becomes a red giant. Stephane Charpinet and collaborators report in Nature the presence of two nearly Earth-sized bodies orbiting the post-red-giant, hot B subdwarf star KIC 05807616 at distances of 0.0060 and 0.0076 AU, with orbital periods of 5.7625 and 8.2293 hours, respectively. These bodies probably survived deep immersion in the former red-giant envelope. They may be the dense cores of evaporated giant planets that were transported closer to the star during the engulfment and triggered the mass loss necessary for the formation of the hot B subdwarf, which might also explain how some stars of this type did not form in binary systems. +read more

KEPLER DISCOVERS FIRST EARTH-SIZE PLANETS BEYOND OUR SOLAR SYSTEM
DEC 20, 2011

The Kepler mission has discovered the first Earth-size planets orbiting a sun-like star outside our solar system. The planets, called Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, are too close to their star to be in the habitable zone where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface, but they are the smallest exoplanets ever confirmed around a star like our sun. The discovery marks the next important milestone in the ultimate search for planets like Earth. The new planets are thought to be rocky. Kepler-20e is slightly smaller than Venus, measuring 0.87 times the radius of Earth. Kepler-20f is a bit larger than Earth, measuring 1.03 times its radius. Both planets reside in a five-planet system called Kepler-20, approximately 1,000 light-years away. +read more

FAST CORE ROTATION IN RED GIANT STARS DISCOVERED BY THE KEPLER ASTEROSEISMOLOGICAL SCIENCE CONSORTIUM
DEC 07, 2011

Spectroscopic observations reveal that the surfaces of most yellow, orange, and red giants rotate slowly-but those observations say nothing about what's happening beneath the surface. Paul Beck of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium and his colleagues have used data from the Kepler space observatory to study the cores of three yellow giant stars named KIC 5356201, KIC 8366239, and KIC 12008916. The stars are only 20% to 50% more massive than the sun, but they're about five times larger and 800 to 950 degrees Kelvin cooler. From more than a year's worth of Kepler data, Beck and his colleagues report online today in Nature that the cores of all three giant stars spin at least 10 times faster than their surfaces. +read more

1.6Re PLANET CONFIRMED AROUND ONE OF THE BRIGHTEST STARS IN THE KEPLER FIELD
DEC 07, 2011

Kepler has revealed that one of the brightest stars in the Kepler field has a planet with a radius only 1.6 Re radius and a mass no greater that 10 earth masses, circling its parent star with a 2.8 day period. This planet, designated Kepler-21b, is only 6 million km away from its parent star. The temperature at the surface of the planet is about 1900 K, or 2960 F. While this temperature is nowhere near the habitable zone in which liquid water might be found, the planet's size is approaching that of the earth. The parent star, HD 179070, is quite similar to our sun: its mass is 1.3 solar masses, its radius is 1.9 solar radii, and its age, based on stellar models, is 2.84 billion years. +read more

THE KEPLER PROJECT ANNOUNCES AN ACCELERATED DATA RELEASE SCHEDULE
DEC 05, 2011

In order to support the community exploitation of the Kepler data archive, the Kepler project announces an accelerated data release schedule. This schedule accelerates all data except for those included in existing agreements between Guest Observers and the Kepler Asteroseismological Science Consortium. Data from quarters 4, 5 and 6 (Dec 2009-Sep 2010) will be released on Jan 7, 2012. Quarters 7, 8, and 9 (Sep 2010-Jun 2011) will be released on Jul 28, 2012. Quarters 10, 11, 12 and 13 (Jun 2011-Jun 2012) will be released on Oct 28, 2012. All data will be available through the Data Search and Retrieval Page at MAST. Quarters collected after Q13 will have no exclusive data use period.

PLANET IN THE HABITABLE ZONE OF A SUN-LIKE STAR AND 1,000 NEW PLANET CANDIDATES
DEC 05, 2011

NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed its first planet in the "habitable zone", the region where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface. Kepler also has discovered more than 1,000 new planet candidates, nearly doubling its previously known count. Ten of these candidates are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their host star. Candidates require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets. The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The planet is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth. Scientists don't yet know if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets. +read more

14,000 KEPLER RED GIANT TARGETS NOW AVAILABLE FOR COMMUNITY-LED ANALYSIS
OCT 06, 2011

The Kepler Team announce the public data release of 14,048 red giants for scientific exploitation by the community. All quarter 0 to quarter 8 light curves of these targets can now be downloaded by you and your collaborators. While there is no guarantee that a specific target in the red giant list has been observed over all past operational quarters, the maximum length of time series data now publicly available for red giant targets is 680 days. These targets remain on the Kepler target list and will continue to be observed when pixels are available. All future data collected for these targets will be delivered to the archive without proprietary periods. They do however have a low priority for the core mission exoplanet survey and are among the first targets to be dropped from the survey each quarter if pixel resources become stretched. The magnitude range of red giants in the released sample is dominated by 7.9 < Kp < 14.0. The KIC-derived stellar effective temperatures are dominated by the range 4,500 < Teff (K) < 5,100. KIC-derived surface densities mostly occur within the range 2.4 < log(g g cm-2) < 3.4. Outliers to these ranges within the public data exist. All data released within this sample can be inspected and downloaded from the Kepler Data Search Tool at MAST, by filtering the search upon a release date of 2011-09-27. We encourage the Kepler community to exploit these newly available data resources for science. The Kepler red giant sample will also be surveyed by the SDSS III APOGEE experiment providing a yield of red giants within the Galactic bulge, bar, disk, and halo. The precise radial velocities and detailed chemical abundance "fingerprinting" provide by APOGEE, combined with Kepler asteroseismology, will yield unprecedented insights into stellar physics and the dynamical structure and chemical history of the Galaxy. If the Kepler mission is extended by NASA, there will possibly be a downselect of targets from the exoplanet survey in 2013 in order to maintain a high duty cycle as our downlink bandwidth systematically decreases over time. These red giants will most-likely be among the targets dropped. It behooves the community to identify the red giants of highest value from this public sample over the next 12 months and reinstate them to the target list through the 2013 Guest Observer program (cycle 5).

NASA'S KEPLER MISSION DISCOVERS A WORLD ORBITING TWO STARS
SEP 15, 2011

The existence of a world with a double sunset, as portrayed in the film Star Wars more than 30 years ago, is now scientific fact. NASA's Kepler mission has made the first unambiguous detection of a circumbinary planet - a planet orbiting two stars- 200 light-years from Earth. Unlike Star Wars' Tatooine, the planet is cold, gaseous and not thought to harbor life, but its discovery demonstrates the diversity of planets in our galaxy. Previous research has hinted at the existence of circumbinary planets, but clear confirmation proved elusive. Kepler detected such a planet, known as Kepler-16b, by observing transits, where the brightness of a parent star dims from the planet crossing in front of it. +read more

SOLAR-LIKE OSCILLATIONS DISCOVERED IN A DELTA SCUTI STAR
SEP 14, 2011

The energy in the outer 30 per cent of the solar atmosphere is transported by convection. Below that, energy is transported by radiation. In stars twice as massive, only one per cent of the envelope is convective. Stars with higher mass should no longer possess a convective envelope, however, where exactly it disappears is unknown. Asteroseismology provides a method to explore this extreme domain. Delta Scuti stars are in the mass range where the convective envelope disappears and energy propagation is dominated by radiation. Most famously, they reveal periodic light variations due to pulsations excited by the kappa mechanism. "For over ten years, scientists have predicted that despite the small depth of the convective envelope of Delta Scuti stars, convection should have sufficient energy to excite solar-like pulsations as well. Finally we succeeded in prove this." explains Victoria Antoci of the University of Vienna writing in Nature. +read more

KEPLER-19C: INVISIBLE WORLD DISCOVERED
SEP 08, 2011

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has spotted a planet that alternately runs late and early in its orbit because a second, "invisible" world is tugging on it. This is the first definite detection of a previously unknown planet using this method. No other technique could have found the unseen companion. "This invisible planet makes itself known by its influence on the planet we can see," said astronomer Sarah Ballard of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Ballard is lead author on the study, which has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. Both the seen and unseen worlds orbit the Sun-like 12th-magnitude star Kepler-19, which is located 650 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. +read more

KEPLER MISSION ANNOUNCES NEXT DATA RELEASE TO PUBLIC ARCHIVE
AUG 12, 2011

The Kepler Science Team announced on Aug 12 the next release of data to the public archive. Quarter three science data collected during the period Sep 18 to Dec 16 2009 will be available for download on Sep 23, 2011 from the Multimission Archive at STScI (MAST). The majority of targets in the Kepler public archive will have a minimum of 6 months or more of near-continuous monitoring available. "The Science team recognizes a strong demand from the scientific community for more public data", said Nick Gautier, Kepler Mission project scientist. "This is evident by the volume of papers on exoplanet science as well as stellar astrophysics that have been published using Kepler data." +read more

TRES-2B: ALIEN WORLD IS BLACKER THAN COAL
AUG 11, 2011

Astronomers have discovered the darkest known exoplanet - a distant, Jupiter-sized gas giant known as TrES-2b. Their Kepler measurements show that TrES-2b reflects less than one percent of the sunlight falling on it, making it blacker than coal or any planet or moon in our solar system. "TrES-2b is considerably less reflective than black acrylic paint, so it's truly an alien world," said astronomer David Kipping of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), lead author on the paper reporting the research. TrES-2b orbits its star at a distance of only three million miles. The star heats TrES-2b to a temperature of more than 1,800 deg - much too hot for ammonia clouds. Instead, its exotic atmosphere contains light-absorbing chemicals like vaporized sodium and potassium, or gaseous titanium oxide. Yet none of these chemicals fully explain the extreme blackness of TrES-2b. +read more

'SOCCER BALL' NEBULA MAY HELP SOLVE SPACE MYSTERY
JUL 25, 2011

A soccer-ball-shaped planetary nebula discovered by an amateur astronomer may help scientists better understand these odd structures, which are created by the last gasps of dying stars. Researchers announced the existence of the newly discovered planetary nebula - named Kronberger 61, or Kn 61 - at a symposium today in Tenerife, Spain. Astronomers described the puffy nebula, which is located in a small patch of sky being monitored closely by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope, as resembling a soccer ball in deep space. Follow-up observations by Kepler may help answer key questions about planetary nebulae - such as how their formation may be shaped by companions, be they other stars or alien planets. +read more

KEPLER-14B, A GIANT PLANET ORBITING ONE OF THE STARS IN A BINARY SYSTEM
JUL 20, 2011

Kepler-14b is a planet 8 times more massive than Jupiter, orbiting one of the stars in a binary star system. The planet has a short orbital period of just 7 days, while the two stars orbit each other with a much longer period of about 2800 years. The light from the planet hosting star is diluted by its companion star and this dilution significantly affects the derived planetary parameters, and if left uncorrected, leads to an underestimate of the radius and mass of the planet by 10% and 60%, respectively. Because of the small separation of the two stars on the sky, their binary nature was only revealed by using high resolution imaging. Such imaging has not been applied to the bulk of the over 500 exoplanets discovered and if some of these planets are in similar binary systems and the dilution effect has not been taken into account, this could significantly affect the derived planetary parameters. +read more

DISCOVERY OF A V777 HER PULSATOR IN THE KEPLER FIELD
JUL 13, 2011

Roy Ostensen and collaborators have presented the discovery of the first pulsating white dwarf star located in the field of view of the Kepler spacecraft. During an ongoing effort to search for compact pulsator candidates that can benefit from the near-continuous coverage of Kepler, they recently identified a faint DB star from spectroscopy obtained with the William Herschel Telescope. After establishing its physical parameters to be Teff = 24,950 K and log g = 7.91 dex, placing it in the V777 Her instability strip, Kepler photometry revealed a pulsation spectrum consisting of five modes that follow a sequence roughly equally spaced in period with a mean spacing of 37 s. The three strongest modes show a triplet structure with a mean splitting of 3.3 μHz. They conclude that this object is a V777 Her pulsator with a mass of approximately 0.56 Msun, and very similar to the class prototype. +read more

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE MAKES ONE MILLIONTH SCIENCE OBSERVATION
JUL 04, 2011

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope crossed another milestone in its 21-year space odyssey of exploration and discovery. On Monday, July 4, the Earth-orbiting observatory logged its one millionth science observation during a search for water in an exoplanet's atmosphere 1,000 light-years away. The millionth exposure is a spectroscopic measurement of the extrasolar giant planet HAT-P-7b, also known as Kepler 2b. The planet has been studied by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler observatory after it was discovered by ground-based observations. +read more

STELLAR ODDBALLS
JUN 4, 2011

Kepler is a planet hunter, seeking evidence of Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of Sun-like stars. But, Kepler has found a bonus, a treasury of wonders, or one might say a stellar freak show out in space. Kepler's high-precision photometry probes the lives of stars in ways not possible before, and astronomers are being called to mine the rich data from this mission. +read more

KEPLER SPACECRAFT SHOWS THAT SMALLER PLANETS ABOUND
MAY 23, 2011

One of the most fascinating aspects of the recent Kepler discoveries is the small sizes of the planetary candidates. For years the list of known extrasolar planets had been dominated by massive worlds comparable to or larger than Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system. Such massive worlds are the easiest to find, whereas more diminutive planets, of roughly Earth or Neptune size, are much more difficult to spot. But Kepler was designed to be sensitive to those smaller worlds, even the temperate, rocky worlds that might be habitable-and it has not disappointed. The spacecraft is showing that smaller planets are common - more common, in fact, than their larger brethren. At least that is how things look in the inner regions of planetary systems, where Kepler's data is currently the strongest. +read more

HOW TO LEARN A STAR'S AGE
MAY 23, 2011

"A star and its planets form together and share the same age, so if we can determine the age of a star, we also have the ages of its planets," Soren Meibom from the Center of Astrophysics told reporters at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston on May 23. "The question of age is highly relevant to the question of life." Soren heads a team that determines stars' spin rates, which vary depending on how old a star is. The Kepler telescope, which is conducting a survey of extrasolar planets, is proving very adept at finding stars' spin rates, even among the galaxy's older stellar residents. +read more

FIRST KEPLER SCIENCE CONFERENCE SCHEDULED
April 15, 2011

The First Kepler Science Conference will be held 5-9 December 2011, hosted by the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. The conference will highlight the full range of scientific results that have emerged from more than two years of Kepler data, as well as what to expect from continued observations. The meeting will consist of 9-10 half-day sessions, each session dedicated to a different topic. Likely session topics:

  • The Kepler Mission and Exoplanet Statistics
  • Earth-analog and sub-Neptune-size Planets
  • Multiple Planet Systems
  • Exoplanet Theory
  • Giant Planets and Planet Atmospheres
  • Eclipsing and Interacting Binaries
  • Stellar Activity
  • Asteroseismology Across the HR Diagram
  • Red Giant Oscillations
  • Asteroseismology of Solar-type Stars

Further details can be found at the conference website. If you are interested in attending, we would greatly appreciate completion of a short survey.

KASC SCIENTISTS DETECT ECHOES FROM THE DEPTH OF A RED GIANT STAR
MAR 31, 2011

KASC astronomers report the discovery of waves inside a star that travel so deep that they reach the core. The discovery was possible thanks to precise measurements with the Kepler space telescope. Up to now only waves in the outer part of the star were observed. The team now unexpectedly found the signature of waves that run all the way to the center of the star. These gravity mode diagnostics have been found over a large sample of red giants, revealing both helium burning stellar cores and hydrogen burning shells along a range of the post-main sequence evolutionary track.

KEPLER SPECIAL SESSION AT BOSTON AAS MEETING
FEB 15, 2011

We call attention to the the special Kepler session to be held at the upcoming American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston on 22-26 May 2011. Organized as a 'meeting within a meeting', the AAS has scheduled the Kepler-themed sessions on 23-25 May. The morning and afternoon sessions on 25 May, are entitled 'Astrophysics with Kepler', and focus on non-exoplanet science enabled by the Kepler mission. These sessions should be especially valuable for GO and community-based researchers. Poster sessions will accompany each of the scheduled oral sessions. The Kepler talks are being organized by Eric Ford from the University of Florida, who can be contacted for more information.

CUSTOM LIGHT CURVE SOFTWARE TOOL AVAILABLE
FEB 07, 2011

A Python-based software tool for constructing custom light curves from target pixel images is now available to the community. This tool is called "kepextract" and is an addition to the PyKEP set of routines for Kepler data analysis. kepextract can be found on this web page under the "Tools / Contributed Software / PyKEP" tab. Instructions for downloading and installing this software are included on the PyKEP page.

KEPLER INPUT CATALOG PAPER SUBMITTED
FEB 2, 2011

A paper describing the Kepler Input Catalog is now available on the arXiv e-print Abstract Service. The authors are responsible for the development of the KIC; this paper will greatly aid Kepler observers and data users in understanding the origin and reliability of KIC parameters.

LIGHT CURVE FOR θ CYG RELEASED
JAN 24, 2011

The Guest Observer Office has released the Q6 light curve for the bright star θ Cyg for community analysis. Classified as an F4 dwarf with V = 4.48, θ Cyg is the brightest star on active silicon located within the Kepler field. This short cadence data was obtained by the GO Office during Q6 to develop procedures for observing saturated sources requiring dedicated pixel masks and to understand Kepler's capabilities for photometry of bright, saturated sources. More information and a link to the data file can be found on the Public Data page for this object.

PIXEL LEVEL DATA AVAILABILITY
DEC 21, 2010

Target pixel files for Q0-6 will become available through the MAST starting in late January 2011. The order of ingest is expected to be: Q1, Q2, Q0, Q6, Q3, Q4, Q5. These files provide the time series of raw and calibrated pixels, allowing users to inspect their targets at the pixel level and perform their own aperture photometry. Custom targets and dedicated mask data will be available for the first time as TPFs, but these datasets will not have associated light curves. The Archive Manual will be updated to describe the formats for the target pixel files. A software tool which allows the user to construct aperture photometry light curves from the target pixel data can be found here.

AAS SEATTLE SPLINTER SESSION: GETTING STARTED WITH KEPLER
DEC 21, 2010

This session will introduce the Kepler Mission, describe the pipeline processing, and summarize the data products available in the Kepler archive at the Multi-mission Archive at STScI (MAST). Data products include high-precision photometric light curves and target-pixel files at 30-min and 1-min cadences, as well as monthly full-frame images. The data products are available in raw, calibrated, and detrended versions. The new target pixel files will be described in some detail, as these will be released for the first time by February 1, 2011 and will enable custom photometry by end users. The suitability of the various product versions for particular astrophysical and exoplanet investigations will be addressed; the precision and power of Kepler's photometry and centroid data will be demonstrated. The material presented at this session can be downloaded here.

This an opportune time to get involved with Kepler, as the bulk of the data from the first 43 days of science is publicly available at MAST and the sequestration period for the most interesting 400 targets ends on February 1, 2011. Moreover, an additional 90 days of data will be released on February 1, and longer data segments have already been released for individual targets as they are published. The time line for future data releases will be presented, as well as opportunities for funding, selecting targets to be observed, and other involvement in the Kepler Mission. The session will end with a question and answer period, followed by one-on-one discussions and tutorials as time permits.

TARGET CROWDING AND CONTAMINATION AT MAST
DEC 21, 2010

It has come to our attention that the target-specific contamination (and crowding) values currently returned by the Kepler Target Search form at the MAST have been used for analysis of archived Kepler flux light curves. The contamination and crowding values at the MAST are NOT suited for such an analysis and will most likely lead to INCORRECT conclusions.
The contamination values currently at MAST are intended only to facilitate the selection of isolated stars as targets. The contamination parameter for an aperture is defined as the ratio of the flux due to the target and the flux from all sources in that aperture. The contamination parameter currently on MAST is for a 21 x 21 pixel (83.6" x 83.6") square aperture centered on the target. This large aperture is not the same as the photometric aperture used to create the Kepler flux light curves. The photometric aperture is usually (but not always) much smaller.
The contamination value relevant to a specific light curve can be substantially different from the predictive value provided at MAST. This value varies from season to season because of changes in photometric aperture size, the pixel response function, optical throughput, and other position-dependent characteristics of the focal plane. The aperture for Kepler photometry is approximately defined before data collection, but is not finalized until post-processing is complete. The contamination values at MAST will be updated to provide a better metric for selecting isolated targets, but they will still not necessarily be appropriate for correction and analysis of Kepler flux light curves.
The Kepler Project will make crowding and contamination values appropriate for the photometric apertures available to users by the end of 2011, both on MAST and in the FITS file headers. If contamination values for Kepler targets are needed sooner, please send requests to kepler-scienceoffice at lists.nasa.gov. We apologize for any confusion the ambiguity in the current description may have caused.

J-BAND UKIRT DATA OF THE KEPLER FIELD AVAILABLE TO THE COMMUNITY
NOV 17, 2010

Images and source tables for the Kepler field observed through the IR J-band are available to the community through the archive and data tools housed at the WFCAM Science Archive in Edinburgh. The images have a typical spatial resolution of 0.8-0.9 arcsec and the image depth is J = 19.6 (Vega), enhancing greatly the existing 2MASS data within the Kepler Input Catalog. The data are especially useful for separating blended stellar pairs and spatially resolving external galaxies. This dataset is intended to (i) assist with detection of false-positive exoplanet transit signals, (ii) assist with the selection and characterization of Guest Observer targets and (iii) potentially identify infrared variable sources within the Kepler field, by comparison with 2MASS data. +read more

KEPLER CYCLE 3 GUEST OBSERVER PROPOSAL DEADLINE ON DEC 17, 2010
NOV 16, 2010

The deadline for Cycle 3 Guest Observer proposals approaches rapidly. Proposals need be submitted to NASA, via the NSPIRES website before Friday, December 17, 2010. NASA solicits proposals from the astronomy community for the acquisition and analysis of new scientific data using Kepler's high-precision photometric capability during the period June 2011 through June 2012. Approximately US $1.2 million is expected to be available to fund successful US applicants in Cycle 3, but applications from all nationalities will be treated equally. Proposals submitted to this program should be for new observations and should address areas of astrophysics outside of the exoplanet Key Project. GO programs may propose observations of any source located within the ~100 square degree field-of-view, and which fall on one of Kepler's 80 CCD channels. Kepler's unique capability of continuous monitoring at 1 or 30 minute cadences over timescales of 1-12 months permits a wide range of astrophysical investigations. +read more

KEPLER PARTICIPATING SCIENTIST AO-2 PROPOSAL DEADLINE ON FEB 11, 2011
NOV 15, 2010

NASA solicits proposals for the Kepler Participating Scientists Program (PSP). The Kepler PSP is designed to augment the skill set of the Kepler Science Team, thereby enabling it to more effectively execute the science program of the mission. Participating Scientists serve as members of the Kepler Science Team and participate in Science Team activities such as data processing and analysis, transit candidate follow-up and characterization, and publication. The Kepler PSP is complementary to, but distinct from, the Kepler Guest Observer (GO) program. The Kepler GO program offers the opportunity for members of the scientific community to select targets of general astrophysical interest in the Kepler field-of-view (both stellar and non-stellar), in pursuit of investigations that fall outside of the scope of the Kepler Science Team. Notices of Intent to propose to the PSP are due Jan 7, 2011. Proposals are due February 11, 2011. +read more

QUARTER 2 KEPLER DATA TO BE RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC ON FEB 1, 2011
NOV 10, 2010

Quarter 2 is the first Kepler data sequence consisting of a complete 3 months of observations from Jun-Sep 2009. It contains light curves for approximately 165,000 stars (most of which are late-type main sequence stars) brighter than 16th magnitude sampled at a 30-minute cadence. Three subsets of one-month each of [up to 512] stars were sampled at 1 min cadence. The shorter cadence data will be released on the same schedule. Only some Q2 GO targets will be kept back from this release until April 2011, in accordance with the 2009 Kepler NASA Research Announcement. The motivation for the early data release is to better support the 2011 NASA Astrophysics Data Analysis Program (ADAP), a funding opportunity which supports the analysis and interpretation of data in the public archives. By tripling the volume of Kepler data in the public archive, the project hope to open research opportunities that can be grant-funded under the ADAP umbrella. The project will hold a splinter session at the AAS meeting in Seattle to inform potential users of how to make use of the archive. +read more

KEPLER TAKES THE PULSE OF DISTANT STARS
OCT 26, 2010

The Kepler Asteroseismology Consortium (KASC) have announced the detection of stellar oscillations that yield new insights about the size, age and evolution of stars. Results were presented at a news conference at Aarhus University in Denmark. The team studied thousands of stars observed by Kepler, releasing what amounts to a roster of some of humanity's most well-characterized stars. Analysis of stellar oscillations is similar to how seismologists study earthquakes to probe the Earth's interior. This branch of science, called asteroseismology, produces measurements of stars the Kepler science team is anxious to have. +read more

PUBLIC RELEASE OF Q0-1 DATA
JUN 15, 2010

The Kepler mission announces the first main delivery of public data from quarters 0 and 1 of operations (May 2 - Jun 18, 2009). Calibrated cadence data for individual sources can be obtained from the Multi-mission Archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute (MAST) via the Kepler Data Search and Retrieval form. The software pipeline at the Kepler Science Operations Center (SOC) and the instrument calibration are on-going projects, investigators are urged to read the Data Release Notes #5 in order to understand the accuracy and limits of this, and future, data releases. +read more

Q3 GUEST OBSERVER DATA AVAILABLE THROUGH THE MAST
APR 15, 2010

The Kepler mission announces the second release of Guest Observer time series data and Q3 dropped targets. Calibrated photometric data for individual sources can be obtained from the Multi-mission Archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute (MAST) via the Kepler Data Search and Retrieval form. All GO data has a proprietary period and will become public on an approximately yearly schedule. The software pipeline at the Kepler Science Operations Center (SOC) and the instrument calibration are on-going projects, investigators are urged to read the Data Release Notes #4 (pending) in order to understand the accuracy and limits of this, and future, data releases. +read more

KEPLER AO-2 GO SCIENCE PROGRAM ANNOUNCED
APR 9, 2010

An independent Target Allocation Committee met Mar 10-12, 2010 to consider the Guest Observer proposals submitted for Cycle 2, covering observations for 1 year from Jun 2010. 3,000 long cadence targets per quarter and 25 short cadence targets per month were available for non-exoplanet science exploitation. 22 proposals were selected for GO grant funding, 13 were selected as unfunded non-US led programs or valued program filler once the grant budget was exceeded. The funded program was oversubscribed in targets by a factor 8.1. The abstracts for all successful programs are available. +read more

GO DIRECTOR'S DISCRETIONARY TARGET (DDT) COMPETITION OPEN
FEB 10, 2010

The DDT Program is a quarterly competition, i.e. it occurs on a 3 month cycle. Observations can be proposed for at any time and targets will be uploaded during the next spacecraft roll. The first quarter available for the DDT program is quarter 6 (Jun-Sep 2010). Up to 100 DDTs are available each quarter. No Guest Observer funding will be provided for DDTs. Proposals from all institutions and countries are encouraged. The proposal process is informal, requiring an email request from the proposer to the GO Office. There is no peer review of DDTs; program target selection is at the discretion of the GO Office Director. The purpose of the DDT program is to Provide a fast-track to Kepler data, yield rapid, high-impact science from Kepler, and quickly build a significant sample of Kepler GO papers. +read more

KEPLER AO-2 CALL FOR PROPOSALS NOW CLOSED
JAN 22, 2010

The Kepler cycle 2 Guest Observer Program reserves 3,000 targets for the general astronomy community to pursue research programs across a broad range of astrophysics. The most recent call for scientific proposals closed on Jan 22, 2010. These targets are competed for on an annual cycle and awarded by a peer review panel comprised of independent scientific experts. The cycle 2 program received 54 unique science proposals and is oversubscribed by a factor 2.3 in budget and a factor 2.4 in targets. Proposed programs involve investigators from 77 academic and science institutions, and from 18 different countries. The panel will meet and recommend targets and research awards to NASA on Mar 10-12.

Q2 GUEST OBSERVER DATA AVAILABLE THROUGH THE MAST
JAN 15, 2010

The Kepler mission announces the first release of Guest Observer time series data and Q2 dropped targets. Calibrated cadence data for individual sources can be obtained from the Multi-mission Archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute (MAST) via the Kepler Data Search and Retrieval form. All GO data has a proprietary period and will become public on an approximately yearly schedule. The software pipeline at the Kepler Science Operations Center (SOC) and the instrument calibration are on-going projects, investigators are urged to read the Data Release Notes #3 in order to understand the accuracy and limits of this, and future, data releases. +read more

ALL SELECTION RESTRICTIONS ON KEPLER GO TARGETS ARE DROPPED
DEC 16, 2009

In response to the quality of Kepler data, requests from the scientific community, and with the purpose of opening the Kepler mission to more astrophysics, the Kepler Team announce that from GO cycle 2 and beyond, all restrictions on GO target selection have been removed. New policy is reflected with a new amendment to the cycle 2 NASA Research Announcement. All targets within the Kepler field of view are now open to Guest Observer proposals, with a few minor caveats to prevent redundancy with existing projects. In order to protect the key exoplanet program, GOs must agree to non-disclosure of exoplanet science and we urge you to read and understand this policy, as described in the NRA. Exoplanet science remains outside of the scope of the GO program and is the exclusive activity of the Kepler Science Team. +read more

KEPLER INSTRUMENT HANDBOOK PUBLISHED
NOV 20, 2009

The Kepler Instrument Handbook (KIH) has passed through the ITAR process and is now available for public download. The KIH contains descriptions of Kepler hardware, calibrations and the artifact mitigation process. +read more

KEPLER COMMISSIONING DATA RELEASED TO PUBLIC
NOV 6, 2009

The Kepler mission announces the first public release of Kepler time series data. Data for individual sources can be obtained from the Multi-Mission Archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute (MAST). During a 10 day commissioning phase (termed Quarter 0) in May 2009, the Kepler spacecraft observed 52,463 sources in order to exercise the capabilities of the science instrument. During this phase, the Project Team observed mainly bright stars in the field of view to define operational parameters for the following Science Mission. After review of these data, 8,441 sources were dropped from further observation after Quarter 1 and the Quarter 0 dropped data are now available for public download. +read more

TARGET SEARCH FORM AND KEPLER INPUT CATALOG RELEASED BY MAST
SEP 18, 2009

The MAST Kepler web site is now public. Users may now query the 6 million row Kepler Target Search Form for selecting potential targets known to be on the CCD detector, or the Kepler Input Catalog for searching through 13 million objects in or near the Kepler field of view. +read more

KEPLER SPIES CHANGING PHASES IN A DISTANT WORLD
AUG 6, 2009

The Kepler space telescope has detected the atmosphere of a known giant gas planet, demonstrating the telescopes extraordinary scientific capabilities. These new data indicate the mission is indeed capable of finding Earth-like planets, if they exist. +read more

KASC TARGET LISTS FOR FIRST 140 DAYS OF THE MISSION RELEASED
JUN 24, 2009

The Kepler Asteroseismology Science Consortium targets have been defined. The target lists contain 293 short cadence KASC targets during commissioning, 509 short cadence KASC targets and 1350 long cadence KASC targets during first roll and 1345 short cadence KASC targets and 1351 long cadence KASC during second roll. KASC will also get access to 1000 long cadence astrometric targets observed during the entire mission. +read more

FIRST SCHEDULED DATA DOWNLOAD
JUN 19, 2009

Kepler is more than 10,700,000 km from Earth and continues its planned drift-away orbit. Today, data collected continuously since science operations began on May 12, 2009 were downloaded to the Kepler Science Operations Center at Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. The data were collected from observing over 145,000 stars simultaneously. Scientists will begin in earnest the analysis of this data to search for other Earth-size planets. Engineers also completed Kepler's planned quarterly roll. This roll will ensure that Kepler's solar arrays are kept optimally positioned with respect to our sun for the next three months. Both the science data download, and the quarterly roll, are Kepler "firsts" in its planned three-and-a-half-year mission. +read more

KEPLER FOCUS IS OPTIMAL
MAY 23, 2009

The Kepler telescopes focus has been successfully optimized. This involved moving the primary mirror of the telescope toward the focal plane array, the area where light is focused, by 40 microns (1.6 thousandths of an inch) and tilting it by 0.0072 degrees. Various other calibrations are underway. +read more

KEPLER IS COLLECTING TIME SERIES DATA
MAY 17, 2009

Following a successful readiness review, Kepler began its search for planets around other stars at 5:01 p.m. Pacific Time (8:01 p.m. Eastern Time) on May 12, 2009. The first of the science data are scheduled to be sent down to Earth on June 18, at which point analysis of the data by the science team will commence. While it will take years to discover any Earth-size planets orbiting in the habitable zones of stars, in the months ahead, we expect to begin detecting large planets that orbit their stars closely. +read more

NASA'S KEPLER CAPTURES FIRST VIEWS OF PLANET-HUNTING TERRITORY
MAY 16, 2009

NASA's Kepler mission has taken its first images of the star-rich sky where it will soon begin hunting for planets like Earth. The first light images show the mission's target patch of sky, a vast starry field in the Cygnus-Lyra region of our Milky Way galaxy. One image shows millions of stars in Kepler's full field of view, while two others zoom in on portions of the larger region. +read more


Questions concerning Kepler's science opportunities and open programs, public archive or community tools? Contact us via the email address.
FirstGov - Your First Click to the US Government
+ Freedom of Information Act
+ Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
+ The President's Management Agenda
+ NASA Privacy Statement, Disclaimer,
and Accessibility Certification

+ Inspector General Hotline
+ Equal Employment Opportunity Data Posted Pursuant
to the No Fear Act

+ Information-Dissemination Priorities and Inventories
NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Editor: Martin Still
NASA Official: Jessie Dotson
Last Updated: Jan 11, 2013
+ Contact NASA