kepler mission . com

Kepler Mission
A first space mission to find Earth-size planets.
This is a personal webpage of NASA's KeplerMission, created by Margus Hõim.
The Kepler Spacecraft was successfully launched on March 7, 2009 !

• Main page • Characteristics • Planet Detection • Illustrations •


First Earth-Size Planet Discovered That May Support Life! NASA scientists have just found an Earth-size planet outside of our solar system in the habitable region of its host star (red dwarf Kepler 186) that may possibly contain liquid water and the suitable environment for life...
... READ MORE about Kepler 186f

Kepler space telescope detects possible earth-sized planet outside our solar system! NASA's scientists have announced that they might have spotted a planet just about 1.5 times the diameter of Earth around a sun-like star 2000 light-years away.

More info and website updates coming soon!

First Words:
Scheduled for launch on the 5th of march 2009, the Kepler Mission will use a unique spaceborne photometer specifically designed to search for Earth-sized planets around stars beyond our solar system. "The KeplerMission will, for the first time, enable humans to search our galaxy for Earth-size or even smaller planets," said principal investigator William Borucki of the Planetary Systems Branch of the Space Science Division. "With this cutting-edge capability, Kepler may help us answer one of the most enduring questions humans have asked throughout history: are there others like us in the universe?"

The Importance of Planet Detection:
The Kepler Mission is specifically designed to survey the extended solar neighborhood to detect and characterize hundreds of terrestrial and larger earth-like planet planets in or near the habitable zone and provide fundamental progress and large leaps in our understanding of planetary systems. The results will yield a broad under-standing of planetary formation, the frequency of formation, the structure of individual planetary systems and the generic characteristics of stars with terrestrial planets.

Science Objectives:
The scientific goal of the Kepler Mission is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems. This is achieved by surveying a large sample of dwarf (main-sequence) stars to:
1. Determine the frequency of terrestrial and larger planets in or near the habitable zone of a wide variety of spectral types of stars
2. Determine the distributions of planet sizes and their orbital semi-major axes
3. Estimate the frequency and orbital distribution of planets in multiple-stellar systems
4. Determine the distributions of semi-major axis, albedo, size, mass, and density of short-period giant planets
5. Identify additional members of each photomet-rically discovered planetary system using com-plementary techniques
6. Determine the properties of those stars that har-bor planetary systems.
The Kepler Mission supports the objectives of the Origin's theme and directly contributes to the de-sign of the Terrestrial Planet Finder as recom-mended in the NRC 2001 decadal survey.

Overview of the Mission:
Kepler measures repetitive stellar brightness changes on the order of 100 parts per million last-ing for 2 to 16 hours caused by transiting terrestrial planets. The planet's orbit is calculated from the period of the transits. The size of the planet is calculated from the transit depth. The proposed differential photometer continuously and simultaneously monitors the brightness of 100,000 dwarf stars for four years; long enough to see four transits of a terrestrial planet in the habitable zone of a solar-like star. To obtain the required precision, the photometer must be spaceborne; this also eliminates the day-night and seasonal cycle interruptions of ground-based observing.

Expected Results:
Kepler Mission expects to perform a census of planets with periods from days to a few years and to detect:
Transits of terrestrial planets near 1 AU (Astronomical Unit - a distance from earth to sun)
• About 50 planets if most have radii about equal to the Earth (R ~ 1.0 R ?)
• About 185 planets if most have R ~ 1.3 R ?
• About 640 planets if most have R ~ 2.2 R ?

Transits of thousands of terrestrial planets
• If most have orbits much less than 1 AU

Modulation of the reflected light of giant inner planets
• About 870 planets with periods ?1 week

Transits of giant planets
• About 135 inner-orbit planets with albedos for about 100 of these giants
• Densities for 35 inner-orbit planets
• About 30 outer-orbit planets.

The results likely consist of a mix of all of the above. From these results, NASA can explore Photometer / Spacecraft the structure and diversity of planetary systems. The results are also still significant even if no planets are found, since the mission is designed to detect so many terrestrial planets.
The mission is sensitive to a large number of planets even smaller than Earth in short period orbits as a result of the larger number of observed transits.

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