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"Kepler is Sick and Resting..."

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#1 Jason H.

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 10:26 PM

Kepler is Sick and Resting: “Mountain View, we have a problem”

http://cosmicdiary.o...now-resting-...

Uh oh! Don't want that to happen!

Jason W. Higley

#2 StarmanDan

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 11:39 PM

It will be sad to see these missions retired. I've helped with follow up observations on a few Kepler candidates. What a legacy they will leave behind.

#3 InterStellarGuy

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 11:49 PM

Hopefully it can survive until atleast 2015.. (The earliest date Kepler could possibly announce Earth 2.0)

#4 MikeBOKC

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 07:40 PM

Even if Kepler goes down soon, it is hard to imagine any other mission with the possible exception of the two Voyagers with a more profound and lasting impact on astronomy.

#5 CounterWeight

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Posted 20 January 2013 - 07:34 AM

Don't forget the Pioneer(s) paved the way... but i see them as a different type of platform from the earth orbital scopes. Maybe NASA should have a 'pimp my satellite' program where these wheel assy's could be improved?

#6 Jason H.

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Posted 20 January 2013 - 07:28 PM

Even if Kepler goes down soon, it is hard to imagine any other mission with the possible exception of the two Voyagers with a more profound and lasting impact on astronomy.


The Hubble Space Telescope comes to mind.

Although I'm a big fan of Kepler too; I was there when it lifted off when I shot this lift off video of Kepler , not a great one I guess, but near the end I zoomed enough to catch the final flare out of the boosters.

Jason H.

#7 groz

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 11:16 AM

Even if Kepler goes down soon, it is hard to imagine any other mission with the possible exception of the two Voyagers with a more profound and lasting impact on astronomy.


Everybody that reads here, probably has enough interest in the subject, that at some point we have played with spreadsheets and / or computer programs that allow us to plug numbers into drake equations, and make fanciful guesses as to the probabilities of finding life out there. Reality is, that is an excercise in fanciful guessing, with no basis in factual data, or, at least it has been in the past.

But, if you look at some of the things going on today, and analyze how the data from them can be used, suddenly those numbers aren't so fanciful anymore. Hard data can be gleaned from various sources, which allow us to put lower bounds on many of the terms.

1) How many stars in our galaxy ? I dunno, you dont know. But, a systematic analysis of the SDSS plates, can indeed put a hard number in place for a lower boundary. With a little insight, and analysis, probabilities can be computed which will provide some form of bounding for an upper boundary.

2) How many of those stars have planets? Various surveys in progress are finding new planets daily now. Wide angle photography is finding transiters. Radial velocity surveys are finding non-transiting candidates. Adding these together, will put a hard number on a lower boundary. Some more analysis of star field density etc, will put some decent estimates of probabilites for lower and upper boundaries. Extrapolate that acrosss the entire sky, and voila, now we have numbers that are not picked out of the blue, but, come from hard data sources, with upper and lower boundary conditions.

3) Keppler provides more data, on a very specific subset. By continuing analysis of candidates from keppler data, we can derive more facts, to replace suppositions. In particular, by getting radial velocity and transit data on those where it's possible, we can start putting hard numbers in place for planet characteristics. This is a process ongoing now, with vigour. This data will provide a meaningful way to answer yet another question, with boundaries. How many of those planets, are of suitable size and density for hosting life as we know it ?

The keppler list is a very special subset of planets, because they are transiting. As our capabilities expand, in the not to distant future, we will have equipment that allows us to isolate more information about the transiting planets, particularily with respect to atmospheres on those planets.

I dont think any mission of the past, or the foreseeable future will have as big an impact on astronomy, as the keppler data. What we now have, is a very detailed list, of suitable targets, at which to point more equipment, where we know there is more data to be had, specifically with respect to answering questions about planets. This list will drive the fundamental design of the next generation of instruments as folks figure out ways to extract the tiny signals available at these locations.

The data from the keppler mission is helping to put boundaries onto not one, but two terms of the drake equations, and, gives us a solid reason to start bringing new instruments online, which will help establish boundaries for yet another term in the sequence.

Not far from where we live, is an institute that works on instrument design for the large new installations coming online today, and in the future. We often get folks from those teams doing talks for local star party events, and the talk always homes in on some similar details. Instrument design for the TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) and Alma are both fundamentally driven by requirements / desires that originate in the field of cosmology. Can we get more / better data from more distant galaxies, etc.

Keppler results are going to change that. IMHO, specifically in the case of the new / large optical instruments, the keppler result set is going to force the issue, and those instruments are going to spend more time looking at stuff in our galaxy, exploring what data can be had from planetary systems, and less time poring over more distant galaxies than is currently envisioned.

Time will tell if I am right, but, with the explosion of discoveries in the planetary field, my own personal opinion is, the overriding question for the next generation of astronomy is going to change. It was 'Where did we come from', and, it's going to change to 'Where can we go'. It is inevitable, our species is not a large herd of navel gazers, fundamentally we are curious explorers.

Cosmology is navel gazing, where have we been. The exploding exoplanet field is a groundwork for future exploration. Over the next few years, I think the number of folks entering the field with an eye to cosmology is going to fall off dramatically, there is an up and coming replacement, that's a lot more exciting. The keppler data set is the one single item that gives a set of hard targets, with specific reasons, to make it so. Give it a generation, and cosomology is going to lose it's current place as the 'leading edge' of astronomy.

And, there is another somewhat of a 'wild card' in play, called 'funding'. Talk to the population as a whole, and the response is 'You want us to spend a billion dollars to build a telescope, so you can look at stuff and figure out more about that big bang, which the good book tells me isn't how it all started anyways???'. Talk to that same population, about exploring new planets, the answer is more along the line of 'Hey, now that's a cool concept, we can lay the groundwork to find places worth going to, its worth spending some bucks on the equipment that will let us find those places'. It's a fundamental change, from looking back, to looking forward, and that appeals to the curious explorer a heck of a lot more than endless navel gazing about what may or may not have happened a billion years ago. There is plenty of public interest in the keppler results with regard to finding new planetary systems, far more than boring talk about CMB etc. That's the wild card that may well accelerate the shift, because research will follow the path of least resistance when it comes to securing funding.

IMHO, the keppler data set is a turning point for astronomy, and it's going to start a fundamental shift that changes the field forever, moreso than data from any other single mission. It puts a whole new purpose into the field, and it's a purpose the general population will buy into, with a vigor, over time. It's the same economics that make sci-fi a profitable field for the entertainment industry. A single star trek movie grosses more in tv re-runs than all cosomology documentaries thruout history, combined.



#8 InterStellarGuy

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 11:04 AM

Even if Kepler goes down soon, it is hard to imagine any other mission with the possible exception of the two Voyagers with a more profound and lasting impact on astronomy.


Yes, but if Kepler goes down, there is no mission in the near future capable of detecting Earth sized planets. We wouldn't be able to discover Earth 2.0 for decades. It would be a huge loss.

#9 shawnhar

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 03:46 PM

Even if Kepler goes down soon, it is hard to imagine any other mission with the possible exception of the two Voyagers with a more profound and lasting impact on astronomy.


Yes, but if Kepler goes down, there is no mission in the near future capable of detecting Earth sized planets. We wouldn't be able to discover Earth 2.0 for decades. It would be a huge loss.

Oh...I don't know that that is true...
The LBT is pretty good.

#10 InterStellarGuy

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 07:35 PM

Discovering Earth 2.0, atleast at this stage, needs a telescope in space. The statistical noise made by an Earth size world in orbit around it's stars habital zone is so small that the atmospheric disturbances in the light as it enters Earth's atmosphere could mask it.
Furthermore, the variance of stars was much more than expected, which NASA announced meant that Kepler would have to get 6 hits on the same Earth sized exoplanet to classify it as a candidate instead of the original 3 thought, hence why it's mission was extended. The earliest Kepler could announce Earth 2.0 under those circumstances is 2015.

#11 llanitedave

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 07:39 PM

Actually, I think that discovering the amount of variability in so many stars was a very interesting bit of serendipity that's worth investigating further. Is the Sun really unusually stable? We need to determine that not only is a planet in the Goldilocks zone, but also that it's not subject to stellar temper tantrums from its host.

#12 InterStellarGuy

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 08:37 PM

That's true, but I wonder how much variance can life tolerate? Earth has a protective magnetic field..how much variance could Earth tolerate?

#13 llanitedave

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 11:05 PM

That's one experiment I hope we don't do here.

#14 Mister T

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 08:44 AM

Earth's current life forms may not tolerate it well but, what about life that might develop on a planet that had been subject to those variances for it entire 4-5 BY evolution.

we have(are) a sample of one, what we can tolerate maybe irrelevant to 99% of life that is out there.

#15 kw6562

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 11:53 AM

Yes, but if Kepler goes down, there is no mission in the near future capable of detecting Earth sized planets. We wouldn't be able to discover Earth 2.0 for decades. It would be a huge loss.



There is a proposal to build another exoplanet survey satellite, called TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) (wiki). Hopefully next month or so we will find out if we made the cut. (I'm very excited about this, as I will have a tiny part in the focal plane array development.)
--Keith

#16 llanitedave

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 12:13 PM

Yes, but if Kepler goes down, there is no mission in the near future capable of detecting Earth sized planets. We wouldn't be able to discover Earth 2.0 for decades. It would be a huge loss.



There is a proposal to build another exoplanet survey satellite, called TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) (wiki). Hopefully next month or so we will find out if we made the cut. (I'm very excited about this, as I will have a tiny part in the focal plane array development.)
--Keith


That would be very cool. If nothing else, I think Kepler's earned a follow-on mission. Kepler itself was pretty low-cost relative to a lot of projects, so the return on investment was excellent. That's something worth continuing.

#17 InterStellarGuy

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 01:59 PM

Yes, but if Kepler goes down, there is no mission in the near future capable of detecting Earth sized planets. We wouldn't be able to discover Earth 2.0 for decades. It would be a huge loss.



There is a proposal to build another exoplanet survey satellite, called TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) (wiki). Hopefully next month or so we will find out if we made the cut. (I'm very excited about this, as I will have a tiny part in the focal plane array development.)


Yes but according to the data on that, the maximum period for planets it could discover is 2 months..so while it could find Earth sized worlds, they would be orbit very close to their star and likely be uninhabitable.
--Keith








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