Author Topic: NASA - Kepler updates  (Read 165612 times)

Offline jacqmans

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NASA - Kepler updates
« on: 04/08/2009 02:21 PM »
News release: 2009-065                                April 7, 2009

Dust Cover Jettisoned From NASA's Kepler Telescope

Engineers have successfully ejected the dust cover from NASA's Kepler telescope, a spaceborne mission soon to begin searching for worlds like Earth.

"The cover released and flew away exactly as we designed it to do," said Kepler Project Manager James Fanson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "This is a critical step toward answering a question that has come down to us across 100 generations of human history -- are there other planets like Earth, or are we alone in the galaxy?"

Kepler, which launched on March 6 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., will spend three-and-a-half years staring at more than 100,000 stars in our Milky Way galaxy for signs of Earth-size planets. Some of the planets are expected to orbit in a star's "habitable zone," a warm region where water could pool on the surface. The mission's science instrument, called a photometer, contains the largest camera ever flown in space -- its 42 charge-coupled devices (CCDs) will detect slight dips in starlight, which occur when planets passing in front of their stars partially block the light from Kepler's view.

The telescope's oval-shaped dust cover, measuring 1.7 meters by 1.3 meters (67 inches by 52 inches), protected the photometer from contamination before and after launch. The dust cover also blocked stray light from entering the telescope during launch -- light that could have damaged its sensitive detectors. In addition, the cover was important for calibrating the photometer. Images taken in the dark helped characterize noise coming from the instrument's electronics, and this noise will later be removed from the actual science data.

"Now the photometer can see the stars and will soon start the task of detecting the planets," said Kepler's Science Principal Investigator William Borucki at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. "We have thoroughly measured the background noise so that our photometer can detect minute changes in a star's brightness caused by planets."

At 7:13 p.m. PDT on April 7, engineers at Kepler's mission operations center at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Boulder, Colo., sent commands to pass an electrical current through a "burn wire" to break the wire and release a latch holding the cover closed. The spring-loaded cover swung open on a fly-away hinge, before drifting away from the spacecraft. The cover is now in its own orbit around the sun, similar to Kepler's sun-centric orbit. See an animation of the event at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/multimedia/videos/cover.html .

With the cover off, starlight is entering the photometer and being imaged onto its focal plane. Engineers will continue calibrating the instrument using images of stars for another several weeks, after which science observations will begin. 

Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. NASA's Ames Research Center Ames is the home organization of the science principal investigator, and is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo., is responsible for developing the Kepler flight system and supporting mission operations. 

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/kepler .

-end-


Offline jacqmans

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #1 on: 04/16/2009 05:00 PM »
RELEASE: 09-085

NASA'S KEPLER CAPTURES FIRST VIEWS OF PLANET-HUNTING TERRITORY

PASADENA, Calif. -- 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 new "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. The images
can be seen online at:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/multimedia/20090416.html


"Kepler's first glimpse of the sky is awe-inspiring," said Lia
LaPiana, Kepler's program executive at NASA Headquarters in
Washington. "To be able to see millions of stars in a single snapshot
is simply breathtaking."

One new image from Kepler shows its entire field of view -- a
100-square-degree portion of the sky, equivalent to two side-by-side
dips of the Big Dipper. The regions contain an estimated 14 millions
stars, more than 100,000 of which were selected as ideal candidates
for planet hunting.

Two other views focus on just one-thousandth of the full field of
view. In one image, a cluster of stars located about 13,000
light-years from Earth, called NGC 6791, can be seen in the lower
left corner. The other image zooms in on a region containing a star,
called Tres-2, with a known Jupiter-like planet orbiting every 2.5
days.

"It's thrilling to see this treasure trove of stars," said William
Borucki, science principal investigator for Kepler at NASA's Ames
Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. "We expect to find hundreds
of planets circling those stars, and for the first time, we can look
for Earth-size planets in the habitable zones around other stars like
the sun."

Kepler will spend the next three-and-a-half years searching more than
100,000 pre-selected stars for signs of planets. It is expected to
find a variety of worlds, from large, gaseous ones, to rocky ones as
small as Earth. The mission is the first with the ability to find
planets like ours -- small, rocky planets orbiting sun-like stars in
the habitable zone, where temperatures are right for possible lakes
and oceans of water.

To find the planets, Kepler will stare at one large expanse of sky for
the duration of its lifetime, looking for periodic dips in starlight
that occur as planets circle in front of their stars and partially
block the light. Its 95-megapixel camera, the largest ever launched
into space, can detect tiny changes in a star's brightness of only 20
parts per million. Images from the camera are intentionally blurred
to minimize the number of bright stars that saturate the detectors.
While some of the slightly saturated stars are candidates for planet
searches, heavily saturated stars are not.

"Everything about Kepler has been optimized to find Earth-size
planets," said James Fanson, Kepler's project manager at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Our images are road maps
that will allow us, in a few years, to point to a star and say a
world like ours is there."

Scientists and engineers will spend the next few weeks calibrating
Kepler's science instrument, the photometer, and adjusting the
telescope's alignment to achieve the best focus. Once these steps are
complete, the planet hunt will begin.

"We've spent years designing this mission, so actually being able to
see through its eyes is tremendously exciting," said Eric Bachtell,
the lead Kepler systems engineer at Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp.
in Boulder, Colo. Bachtell has been working on the design,
development and testing of Kepler for nine years.

Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. Ames is responsible for the ground
system development, mission operations and science data analysis. JPL
manages the Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies
Corp. is responsible for developing the Kepler flight system and
supporting mission operations.

For images, animations and more information about the Kepler mission,
visit:



http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

       
-end-

Offline jacqmans

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #2 on: 05/13/2009 09:48 PM »
Kepler Mission Status Report                                    May 13, 2009

Let the Planet Hunt Begin

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has begun its search for other Earth-like worlds. The mission, which launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on March 6, will spend the next three-and-a-half years staring at more than 100,000 stars for telltale signs of planets. Kepler has the unique ability to find planets as small as Earth that orbit sun-like stars at distances where temperatures are right for possible lakes and oceans.

"Now the fun begins," said William Borucki, Kepler science principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. "We are all really excited to start sorting through the data and discovering the planets."

Scientists and engineers have spent the last two months checking out and calibrating the Kepler spacecraft. Data have been collected to characterize the imaging performance as well as the noise level in the measurement electronics. The scientists have constructed the list of targets for the start of the planet search, and this information has been loaded onto the spacecraft.

"If Kepler got into a staring contest, it would win," said James Fanson, Kepler project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "The spacecraft is ready to stare intently at the same stars for several years so that it can precisely measure the slightest changes in their brightness caused by planets." Kepler will hunt for planets by looking for periodic dips in the brightness of stars -- events that occur when orbiting planets cross in front of their stars and partially block the light.

The mission's first finds are expected to be large, gas planets situated close to their stars. Such discoveries could be announced as early as next year.

Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., is the home organization of the science principal investigator, and is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. JPL manages the Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., is responsible for developing the Kepler flight system and supporting mission operations.

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/kepler and http://www.kepler.nasa.gov .


Offline jacqmans

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #3 on: 08/03/2009 01:38 PM »
MEDIA ADVISORY: M09-144

NASA ANNOUNCES BRIEFING ABOUT KEPLER'S EARLY SCIENCE RESULTS

WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a media briefing on Thursday, Aug. 6, at
2 p.m. EDT, to discuss early science results of the Kepler mission.
Kepler is the first spacecraft with the ability to find Earth-size
planets orbiting stars like our sun in a zone where liquid water
could exist.

The televised briefing will be held in the James E. Webb Memorial
Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. S.W., Washington.

The briefing participants are:

-- Jon Morse, NASA's Astrophysics Division director, NASA Headquarters

-- William Borucki, Kepler science principal investigator, NASA's Ames
Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
-- Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
-- Alan Boss, astrophysicist, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism,
Carnegie Institution, Washington

Reporters may also ask questions from participating NASA locations or
by telephone. To reserve a telephone line, contact J.D. Harrington by
e-mail at:
j.d.harrington@nasa.gov

Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. It was launched from Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on March 6, 2009.

Besides being the home organization of the science principal
investigator, NASA's Ames Research Center is responsible for Kepler's
ground system development, mission operations and science data
analysis.

Kepler mission development is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp.
is responsible for developing the Kepler flight system and supporting
mission operations.

For more information about NASA TV downlinks and streaming video,
visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv


For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

Offline jacqmans

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #4 on: 08/06/2009 06:16 PM »
RELEASE: 09-180

NASA'S KEPLER MISSION SPIES CHANGING PHASES IN A DISTANT WORLD

WASHINGTON -- NASA's new exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope has
detected the atmosphere of a known giant gas planet, demonstrating
the telescope's extraordinary scientific capabilities. The discovery
will be published Friday in the journal Science.

The find is based on a relatively short 10 days of test data collected
before the official start of science operations. Kepler was launched
March 6, 2009, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The
observation demonstrates the extremely high precision of the
measurements made by the telescope, even before its calibration and
data analysis software were finished.

"As NASA's first exoplanets mission, Kepler has made a dramatic
entrance on the planet-hunting scene," said Jon Morse, director of
the Science Mission Directorate's Astrophysics Division at NASA
Headquarters in Washington. "Detecting this planet's atmosphere in
just the first 10 days of data is only a taste of things to come. The
planet hunt is on!"

Kepler team members say these new data indicate the mission is indeed
capable of finding Earth-like planets, if they exist. Kepler will
spend the next three-and-a-half years searching for planets as small
as Earth, including those that orbit stars in a warm zone where there
could be water. It will do this by looking for periodic dips in the
brightness of stars, which occur when orbiting planets transit, or
cross in front of, the stars.

"When the light curves from tens of thousands of stars were shown to
the Kepler science team, everyone was awed; no one had ever seen such
exquisitely detailed measurements of the light variations of so many
different types of stars," said William Borucki, the principal
science investigator and lead author of the paper.

The observations were collected from a planet called HAT-P-7, known to
transit a star located about 1,000 light years from Earth. The planet
orbits the star in just 2.2 days and is 26 times closer than Earth is
to the sun. Its orbit, combined with a mass somewhat larger than the
planet Jupiter, classifies this planet as a "hot Jupiter." It is so
close to its star, the planet is as hot as the glowing red heating
element on a stove.

The Kepler measurements show the transit from the previously detected
HAT-P-7. However, these new measurements are so precise, they also
show a smooth rise and fall of the light between transits caused by
the changing phases of the planet, similar to those of our moon. This
is a combination of both the light emitted from the planet and the
light reflected off the planet. The smooth rise and fall of light is
also punctuated by a small drop in light, called an occultation,
exactly halfway between each transit. An occultation happens when a
planet passes behind a star.

The new Kepler data can be used to study this hot Jupiter in
unprecedented detail. The depth of the occultation and the shape and
amplitude of the light curve show the planet has an atmosphere with a
day-side temperature of about 4,310 degrees Fahrenheit. Little of
this heat is carried to the cool night side. The occultation time
compared to the main transit time shows the planet has a circular
orbit. The discovery of light from this planet confirms the
predictions by researchers and theoretical models that the emission
would be detectable by Kepler.

This new discovery also demonstrates Kepler has the precision to find
Earth-size planets. The observed brightness variation is just one and
a half times what is expected for a transit caused by an Earth-sized
planet. Although this is already the highest precision ever obtained
for an observation of this star, Kepler will be even more precise
after analysis software being developed for the mission is completed.

"This early result shows the Kepler detection system is performing
right on the mark," said David Koch, deputy principal investigator of
NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. "It bodes well
for Kepler's prospects to be able to detect Earth-size planets."

Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. Ames is responsible for the ground
system development, mission operations and science data analysis.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the
Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of
Boulder, Colo., is responsible for developing the Kepler flight
system and supporting mission operations.

For images, animations and more information about the Kepler mission,
visit:



http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

Offline iamlucky13

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #5 on: 08/07/2009 10:47 PM »
Good stuff, although I admit I was hoping when I saw the announcement of a press conference that they might have a few probable candidates for transit events around new stars.

Offline jimvela

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #6 on: 08/08/2009 12:03 AM »
Good stuff, although I admit I was hoping when I saw the announcement of a press conference that they might have a few probable candidates for transit events around new stars.

Who says that they don't?  :)

From launch forward it's up to the program leadership, science team, and the PI to process data and release what they have when they are ready to do so.  I'm quite certain that the PI won't release data until it's thoroughly verified and well documented.

In the case of some of the most exciting transits (to me anyway- an earth-like planet in the habitable zone), that could mean years later when the transit is verified additional times.

I have very high confidence that the Kepler mission will find not only a large number of transit events, but also lots of other interesting data that will keep the science community making discoveries for years to come.


Offline eeergo

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #7 on: 11/01/2009 04:38 PM »
Kepler has problems with its CCD signal amplifiers!

http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091030/full/news.2009.1051.html?s=news_rss
-DaviD-

Offline Hungry4info3

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #8 on: 11/01/2009 09:57 PM »
Things aren't as bad as the Nature article conveys.

Quote from: William Borucki, Kepler Science Principal Investigator
There is a mistake in the Nature article. The Kepler Mission is actually doing very well and is producing planet discoveries that will be announced early next year. Data from 3 of the 84 channels that have more noise than the others will be corrected or the data flagged to avoid being mixed in with the low noise data prior to the time an Earth twin could be discovered.

(loc http://blogs.discovery.com/space_disco/2009/10/keplers-exoplanet-hunt-on-hold-until-2011.html )

Offline robertross

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #9 on: 11/01/2009 10:16 PM »
Kepler has problems with its CCD signal amplifiers!

http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091030/full/news.2009.1051.html?s=news_rss

A known issue before launch as well...

AT least they can still do good science
Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our rights & freedoms, and for those injured, visible or otherwise, in that fight.

Offline daver

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #10 on: 11/03/2009 10:51 PM »
Don't they have a review before launch?  Shouldn't someone of said, "Hey, we have a known issue that might affect the mission, perhaps we should make sure everything is in working order before we send it off."   If that conversation actually happened and someone signed a wavier and said, "Just fly the dang thing".  This is the time they should be held accountable. 
  This is a really exciting and important mission and I'm bummed that there's a problem that could of been handled here even if it meant a delay. 

Offline rdale

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #11 on: 11/03/2009 11:18 PM »
Don't they have a review before launch?  Shouldn't someone of said, "Hey, we have a known issue that might affect the mission, perhaps we should make sure everything is in working order before we send it off."

Did you read the followup post from Kepler people?

Quote
  This is a really exciting and important mission and I'm bummed that there's a problem that could of been handled here even if it meant a delay. 

How much of a delay would it have involved?
« Last Edit: 11/06/2009 12:25 PM by rdale »

Offline iamlucky13

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #12 on: 11/06/2009 04:35 AM »
More info from the mission website:

Quote
Random noise is present in all measurements and cannot be calibrated out. Therefore, strict requirements were placed on the design of Kepler’s spacecraft systems to limit random noise to a low level. Measurements taken in space confirm that Kepler meets its random noise requirements.

Systematic noise results from the imperfect nature of any measuring device. It represents the instrument’s “finger print” placed upon the measurement, and must be calibrated out of the data in post-processing on the ground. Because systematic noise depends on the specific characteristics of the instrument, the best calibration requires that the noise sources be characterized and modeled based on measurements made in space.

And a little more from New Scientist:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18095-telescope-glitch-could-delay-discovery-of-alien-earths.html

Quote
The tiny brightness dips from a transiting Earth-size planet could be lost amid these fluctuations. But since the problem affects only a few of the 84 channels, it is not expected to hide all Earth-size planets, Borucki says.

"People have found a pimple here and they are trying to make it into a mountain," he told New Scientist. "A lot of the planets will show up regardless."

Offline madscientist197

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #13 on: 11/06/2009 01:57 PM »
I'm not sure whether to believe any of this reporting or not. Three years to write post-processing software? Noisy amplifiers are not exactly a new problem -- this is prior art.
« Last Edit: 11/06/2009 02:02 PM by madscientist197 »
John

Offline jimvela

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #14 on: 11/06/2009 02:15 PM »
Don't they have a review before launch? 

The program did.

Quote
Shouldn't someone of said, "Hey, we have a known issue that might affect the mission, perhaps we should make sure everything is in working order before we send it off."   If that conversation actually happened and someone signed a wavier and said, "Just fly the dang thing".  This is the time they should be held accountable. 

That is a mischaracterization.  I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and attribute your statement to ignorance of the specifics rather than malice.  There was and is a minor issue that was understood and found to have a minimal potential impact on the mission.

Quote
  This is a really exciting and important mission and I'm bummed that there's a problem that could of been handled here even if it meant a delay. 

That's not the way a fix would have played out.

The alternative to try and fix it was to rip the photometer open, which would have involved at least 6-10 months of delay.  That would have meant many tens of millions of dollars of additional cost. 

There was an additional time-sensitive element in that there was a finite amount of time available to get the mission into space.  There was another optical component that could have degraded in time and then it too would have to be replaced (which would be additional delay and many more tens of millions of dollars)

At that time, the program was already being threatened with cancellation.  A major cost and schedule overrun would have likely meant end of mission. 

No science return at all.  That's what the alternative was.

Everyone involved made the correct decision to fly as-is, and now that the mission is on orbit and collecting science data this relatively minor issue can be worked on via additional software updates.

I for one can't wait until the PI and his team start sharing with the world the data that they do have and the findings.  This really isn't the end of the world nor the fiasco that some want to make it into.

« Last Edit: 11/06/2009 02:33 PM by jimvela »

Offline jimvela

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #15 on: 11/06/2009 02:46 PM »
I'm not sure whether to believe any of this reporting or not. Three years to write post-processing software? Noisy amplifiers are not exactly a new problem -- this is prior art.

The article says that the new software will be ready in 2010.  (We're two months away from 2010).

Note that what is actually being said is that for candidate transits, having the upgraded software will make it easier to confirm transits of candidate objects. 

In other words, you have a candidate transit that could be noise instead.  If you see another transit later with the upgraded software in place, you've got a much stronger candidate.

A hypothetical earth-like object really needs three transits to confirm, so an exact earth twin would take three years to confirm with the Kepler system.

I'd place a healthy wager that the PI and science community already have quite a few very interesting (but not direct earth-analog) discoveries- and that more are coming along in a year or two when the system can do a full mission cycle.

My personal opinion is that we'll find that planets in roughly habitable zones aren't rare at all, and that there are lots and lots of places in our galactic neighborhood that could sustain life should it arise (or travel) there.

Offline madscientist197

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #16 on: 11/07/2009 09:52 AM »
The article says that the new software will be ready in 2010.  (We're two months away from 2010).

I admit I miscounted (2 versus 3), but SA said that the "rigourous testing" of the post-processing software would take until 2011, which strained credibility. It's not like poor post-processing software on the ground will make Kepler explode ;)

Jim, did you have a chance to read the Nature article before it was edited? It was appallingly misleading (it's still pretty bad, especially if someone doesn't read the whole thing). The first few sentances still imply that the 2011 date is a delay caused by the noise problem, which is completely false.

Quote
A hypothetical earth-like object really needs three transits to confirm, so an exact earth twin would take three years to confirm with the Kepler system.
I know that... You know that... But whoever wrote the Nature article didn't seem to know that; honestly, it was the sort of reporting I might expect from a tabloid.
« Last Edit: 11/07/2009 09:54 AM by madscientist197 »
John

Offline jimvela

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #17 on: 11/07/2009 11:50 AM »
The article says that the new software will be ready in 2010.  (We're two months away from 2010).

I admit I miscounted (2 versus 3), but SA said that the "rigourous testing" of the post-processing software would take until 2011, which strained credibility. It's not like poor post-processing software on the ground will make Kepler explode ;)


I should probably clarify my understanding of the situation: there is both ground and flight segment software changes coming. 

Note that a significant amount of science data processing is done onboard the Kepler spacecraft- there just isn't sufficient bandwidth (nor DSN time) to downlink the raw data.  My understanding is that it actually is FSW that is being updated-  it is well worth testing thoroughly.

Since the modified science processing FSW will be operating up on the spacecraft, seeing those results will take a while.  The mission only dumps processed data nominally every 30 days when the spacecraft turns back to point the HGA at earth and dump science.  It'll take a bit of time to be sure everything is OK once the new SW is up.

The good news is that there are very high fidelity software test benches to qualify the updated FSW on. 

Disclaimer: My lab built those benches, I'm very familiar with them- but probably a bit biased towards liking them.  Actually, it's more of a love-hate relationship depending on how well they behave. :-)


Quote
Jim, did you have a chance to read the Nature article before it was edited?

No, it had been edited by the time I saw it. 

I must admit, there is very little good coverage of anything space related in the mainstream media.  It's a good reminder to me- they screw up and bias space coverage horribly, but not any worse than they screw up and bias coverage of everything else.

Quote

Quote
A hypothetical earth-like object really needs three transits to confirm, so an exact earth twin would take three years to confirm with the Kepler system.
I know that... You know that... But whoever wrote the Nature article didn't seem to know that; honestly, it was the sort of reporting I might expect from a tabloid.

For the sake of accuracy, note that technically a near twin earth with a 1 year orbit could be confirmed in just over two years if its transit was spotted just after commissioning, then again a year later, then a year after that. 

A habitable world with a 1.5 year orbital period might not be confirmed at all, as its worst case transits could be 1.5 years after commissioning, 3 years after commissioning, and 4.5 years after commissioning. 

There's no guarantee that there will be sufficient fuel on board the spacecraft to do science for much of an extended mission- so long-period planets might fall outside the available mission operations period of the spacecraft.

I believe that there will end up at the end of the mission many possible but unconfirmed transits that will be the foundation for much follow-on investigation even after the observations from the Kepler spacecraft have concluded.

If someone wanted to fairly criticize the Kepler mission, the deletion of the gimballed HGA and the size of the propellant tank would be two of the most significant limitations of the Kepler mission, IMHO- even more so than the noise issue. 

The same qualifier made several posts above- that the added costs of addressing those known limitiations of the mission could have meant cancellation- would also apply to these two criticisms.

Offline madscientist197

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #18 on: 11/07/2009 01:39 PM »
My understanding is that it actually is FSW that is being updated-  it is well worth testing thoroughly.

Ah, thanks. That makes a big difference. Nice to have someone around here who's involved with the project and can clarify things a bit.

I must admit that I'm not quite as interested in the transiting planets as studying variable stars. I'm sure there'll be some really interesting results in this area. For me one of the reasons is that all the planets are going to be faceless statistics -- we'll know the orbital period and volume and that's probably about it. On the other hand, we will know so much more about the host stars.
« Last Edit: 11/07/2009 01:40 PM by madscientist197 »
John

Offline Mike_1179

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Re: NASA - Kepler updates
« Reply #19 on: 11/09/2009 07:23 PM »

If someone wanted to fairly criticize the Kepler mission, the deletion of the gimballed HGA and the size of the propellant tank would be two of the most significant limitations of the Kepler mission, IMHO- even more so than the noise issue. 


But to be fair no one knows if this technique will really work to find Earth-like planets in habitable zone and no one will know how often they exist until this experiment is complete.

Can you consider Kepler as a technology demonstration of the techniques and tools you would need for a larger survey of the sky?  Kepler only looks at a small patch of sky (for some rather good reasons) and had to make some technical comprimises.  If a sufficiently large number of Earth-like plantets are found around stars in this small patch of sky, would you not want to launch something like a next-generation Kepler-type mission, but something which targets a different area of the sky.  With the risks of this type of mission retired partially by Kepler, you'd have a case to build a more capable next-gen planet-hunter.

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