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NASA Ames Research Center

Kepler Team
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Jon Jenkins

SETI Institute
Mountain View, CA 94043

Why I joined the Kepler Team
“Kepler will answer a question we’ve been asking for thousands of years: are there other worlds out there like our own? In a few years we’ll know the answer to this age-old question. What could be better than to be standing in the crow’s nest and experiencing the thrill of discovering new worlds?

I joined the team in 1995 shortly after hearing Bill Borucki give a talk about Kepler. Seeing the photometer in operation after all these years is a dream come true.

Kepler Job Description
As the Analysis Lead (Co-Investigator) for Kepler, Jon has developed the science algorithms used to process the raw pixel data from the spacecraft to produce time series of brightness measurements of the 150,000 target stars over time and to search for the repetitive, miniscule signatures of planets orbiting and transiting these stars. He developed science-processing pipelines for the Vulcan Project, a ground-based effort to detect giant transiting planets run at Lick Observatory, and for the Kepler Technology Demonstration, a hardware-based simulation of the Kepler photometer. Jon also designed the data compression algorithm used by Kepler’s flight computer to reduce the data volume so that 60+ days of data can be stored on board the spacecraft’s solid-state recorder. He is the lead scientific programmer in the Science Operations Center and oversees the implementation of the science pipeline and reviews the quality of the science products.

Jon grew up in the shadow of Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building in Merritt Island, Florida, where he attended the launches of many rockets, and has a lifelong interest in space and space science. As an undergraduate, he conducted laboratory measurements of the radio properties of planetary atmospheres at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, under the direction of Dr. Paul G. Steffes. He received his Ph.D. at Georgia Tech by studying the atmosphere of Venus with data from the Pioneer Venus Orbiter. He moved to the Bay Area after graduation in April 1992 to join the SETI Institute as a Principal Investigator where he continued his studies of the Venus atmosphere with the Pioneer Venus Orbiter and with the Magellan Orbiter. In 1993 he became interested in the possibility of detecting planets orbiting short-period eclipsing binaries and developed detection algorithms for an international consortium that was observing the system CM Draconis intensely. This work brought him to the attention of Kepler’s Science Principal Investigator, William J. Borucki, who invited him to join the team in the spring of 1995.

Jon lives in San Jose with his wife, Renée, whom he married in July of 1995 just after joining the Kepler team, and his three children: Cassiopeia, born during the proposal cycle of 1998, Orion, born in the summer of the Preliminary Design Review in 2004, and Arran, born in the summer of the Critical Design Review in 2006. Jon enjoys working on green home improvements, day hiking, swimming with his family, and sewing fabulous shirts. Currently he is learning to play the ukulele with the patience and understanding of all family members, even the lithe black and white kitty named Selkie.

See YouTube video of Jon Jenkins giving a talk at SETI Institute as part of a colloquium series "Kepler: Are There Any Good Worlds Out There?"