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NASA Facts Kepler NASA's First Mission Capable of Finding Earth-Size and Smaller Planets 2008

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National Aeronautics and Space Administration Kepler: NASA’s First Mission Capable of Finding Earth-Size and Smaller Planets Kepler will be the first space mission to search for Earth-size and smaller planets in the habitable zone of other stars in our neighborhood of the galaxy. Kepler is a special-purpose spacecraft that precisely measures the light variations from thousands of distant stars, looking for planetary transits. When a planet passes in front of its parent star, as seen from our so
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   Kepler   : NASA’s First Mission Capable ofFinding Earth-Size and Smaller Planets Kepler  will be the rst space mission to search orEarth-size and smaller planets in the habitable zoneo other stars in our neighborhood o the galaxy. Kepler  is a special-purpose spacecrat that precisely measures the light variations rom thousands o distant stars, looking or planetary transits. Whena planet passes in ront o its parent star, as seenrom our solar system, it blocks a small raction o the light rom that star—this is known as a transit.Searching or transits o distant “Earths” is likelooking or the drop in brightness when a moth iesacross a searchlight. Measuring repeated transits,all with a regular period, duration and change inbrightness, provides a method or discovering andconrming planets and their orbits—planets the sizeo Earth and smaller in the habitable zone aroundother stars similar to our Sun.Te centuries-old quest or other worlds like ourEarth has been rejuvenated by the intense excitementand popular interest surrounding the discovery in thepast decade o more than 250 giant planets orbitingstars beyond our solar system. With the exceptiono the pulsar planets, most o the extrasolar planetsdetected to date are gas giants. Te challenge is tond terrestrial planets, which are 30-600 times lessmassive than Jupiter. Kepler  is specically designedto search or Earth-size and smaller planets in thehabitable zone o solar-like stars out to distances o about three thousand light years. Expected Results Kepler  will continuously monitor over 100,000stars similar to our Sun or brightness changesproduced by planetary transits. At the beginning o the mission, planets o all sizes orbiting very close totheir stars will be ound. Ater three years, we willbe able to discover planets with orbits o one year,that is those in the habitable zone o stars like theSun. I Earth-size planets in the habitable zone arecommon, then lie may be ubiquitous in our galaxy.On the other hand, i no terrestrial planets areound, then “Earths” may be rare.       N      A      S      A       f     a     c      t     s National Aeronautics and Space Administration    N   A   S   A   /   A  m  e  s ,   A  r   t   i  s   t   ’  s   C  o  n  c  e  p   t FS-2008-12-01-ARC1208-2000         b     r       i     g       h      t     n     e     s     s planetstarlight curvetime Tree or more transits o a given star all with a consistent period,brightness change and duration provide a rigorous method o detection and conrmation. Te data will reveal the planet’s:Size rom the brightness change and size o the star; ã Orbital period rom the time between transits; ã Orbital size rom the mass o the star and the period; ã emperature rom the planet’s orbit and the temperature ã o the star.From the data we can calculate the raction o stars that haveplanets, and the distributions o planetary sizes and orbits ormany diferent types o stars.Te results will tell us how oten planets occur in the habitablezone o other stars. I common, then hundreds o Earth-sizeplanets in the habitable zone and thousands outside the habitablezone will be detected. The Spacecraft Te Kepler  spacecrat consists o a spacecrat bus and a singleinstrument called a photometer, that is, a light meter, which cansimultaneously measure the brightness variations o over 100,000stars with a precision o about 20 parts per million (ppm). Tisprecision allows detection o Earth-like transits, which cause achange in brightness o 84 ppm o a solar-like star that lasts ora ew hours to about hal o a day. Te photometer is so sensitivethat planets as small as Mars can be detected when they occurin short-period orbits like many o the giant planets already discovered. So as not to miss any transits, Kepler  will stare at thesame star eld in the Cygnus-Lyra region or the entire mission. Kepler’s  aperture is nearly one meter in diameter and Kepler  willbe the largest Schmidt-type telescope ever launched. Schmidtoptics have an unusually large eld o view. Kepler’s  will be biggerthan an open hand held at arm’s length. Te detectors usedare charged coupled devices (CCDs) similar to those ound inconsumer digital cameras. However, unlike an ordinary digitalcamera with a ew megapixels, Kepler  has an array o 95 megapixels. Scientifc Community Involvement Tere are three ways or the broader scientic community toparticipate in the mission via NASA Research Opportunities.Scientists will be invited to propose to:Conduct complementary investigations that support the ã planetary detection science o  Kepler  ;Use ã Kepler  to observe other types o astrophysically interesting objects in its eld o view, such as variable stars,quasars and galaxies; and Analyze the unique ã Kepler  data archive or phenomenarelating to stellar activity.Te archive will contain three and one-hal or more years o continuous observations with unprecedented photometricprecision o stars. For example, such data are useul or estimatinghow oten stars like our Sun could cause a climate change likethat which brought on the mini-ice age in the 17th century. Education and Public Outreach Program Te EPO program leverages pre-existing collaborations,networks, and team experience to maximize the developmentand impact o EPO products and activities. It includes:Formal Programs— ã Hands On Universe  or grades 9-12; KeplerNE, an undergraduate consortium; and Great Explorations in Math and Science  (GEMS) SpaceScience Sequence or grades 3-5 and 6-8. GEMS reachesthousands o teachers through over 80 GEMS sites/centersnationwide and worldwide;Inormal Programs—Exhibits and programs or science ã and technology museums and planetaria; andPublic Outreach Programs—Kits or amateur astronomers ã via the Night Sky Network  ; nationally broadcast sciencedocumentaries; and StarDate  radio programs. Mission Organization and Status Te Kepler Mission was competitively selected in December 2001as NASA’s tenth Discovery mission. NASA Ames Research Centeris responsible or the data analysis and scientic interpretation o the data, the development o the ground system and managemento the operations phase. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory isresponsible or managing the development phase. Ball Aerospaceand echnologies Corporation is responsible or developing thephotometer and spacecrat and supporting mission operations. As o all 2007, all o the ight hardware has been built. Te Assembly est and Launch Operations Readiness Review washeld in September 2007. Te Photometer environmental andperormance testing was completed in April 2008. Integrationand testing with the spacecrat was begun in May 2008. Launch isplanned or March 2009. Kepler Discovery Mission Science Principal Investigator Project Manager   William Borucki James FansonNASA Ames Research Center Jet Propulsion Laboratory Kepler will fnd planets by looking or tiny dips in the brightness o a star caused by planetary transits. National Aeronautics and Space Administration  Ames Research Center Moffett Field, California 94035 - 1000 www.nasa.gov 2 Kepler  : Finding Earth-Size and Smaller Planets NASA Facts Learn more at the Kepler  web site: http://kepler.nasa.gov
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