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Kepler mission - Rice Space Institute

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by Barbara Brown
for ASTR 402
Spring, 2006
Kepler Mission test hypotheses:
•Most stars like our Sun have terrestrial
planets in or near the habitable zone
•On an average two Earth-size planets
form in the region between 0.5 and 1.5
What is a habitable planet?
•Liquid water on planet surface--determined
by size and temperature of the star and orbit
of the planet
•Size and mass of planet--small planets don’t
have enough surface gravity to hold onto a
life-sustaining atmosphere
•Amount and composition of atmosphere
•Affects of moons and giant planets in the
How are we going to do this?
Kepler Mission Scientific Objective:
The scientific objective of the Kepler Mission is to
explore the structure and diversity of planetary
systems. This is achieved by surveying a large
sample of stars to:
1. Determine how many terrestrial and larger planets
there are in or near the habitable zone of a wide
variety of spectral types of stars;
2. Determine the range of sizes and shapes of the
orbits of these planets;
3. Estimate the how many planets there are in
multiple-star systems;
4. Determine the range of orbit size, brightness,
size, mass and density of short-period giant
5. Identify additional members of each
discovered planetary system using other
techniques; and
6. Determine the properties of those stars that
harbor planetary systems.
Expected Results:
Based on the mission described above and assumption
that planets are common around other stars like our
Sun, then we expect to detect:
From transits of terrestrial planets:
•About 50 planets if most are the same size as Earth
(R~1.0 Re),
•About 185 planets if most have a size of R~1.3 Re,
•About 640 planets if most have a size of R~2.2 Re,
•About 12% with two or more planets per system.
From modulation of the reflected light from
giant inner planets:
•About 870 planets with periods less than one
From transits of giant planets:
•About 135 inner-orbit planet detections,
•Densities for 35 inner-orbit planets, and
•About 30 outer-orbit planet detections.
Characteristics of
a planetary
•Period of
recurrence of the
•Duration of the
•Fractional change
in brightness of the
How can we detect a planetary transit?
What would a transit look like
(on a graph)?
The Kepler instrument:
0.95-meter diameter photometer telescope
105 degrees2 field of view
Continuously and simultaneously monitor
the brightnesses of more than 100,000
stars for the life of the mission—4 years
Kepler Mission
Team Members
Scientific Operations Center at NASA Ames:
William Borucki, Principal Investigator
Mission Operations Center at University of Colorado LASP
Data Management Center at Space Telescope Science
Industrial partner: Ball Aerospace, Boulder, CO
• “Close-up on the Kepler Mission” by Jon Jenkins,
• “Solar transits: Tools of discovery” by Edna DeVore,
• “Detecting other worlds:
The photometric transit or 'Wink' method” by Dr. Laurance
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