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Kepler in the News
Read News: Exoplanets: The New Age in Planetary Science
03-10-2014
Exoplanets: The New Age in Planetary Science
Based on the Kepler survey, we have identified over 100 exoplanets that are Earth-sized, and of these, a handful are just the right distance from their star for liquid water to potentially exist on their surfaces!
Read News: Mini-Neptunes, Supernova, and K2
01-21-2014
Mini-Neptunes, Supernova, and K2
News articles generated after the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Conference this month include K2 (plans to revive the Kepler Space Telescope), a category of planet not found in our Solar System (Mini-Neptunes), and discoveries about suprnovae.
Read News: New Plan for a Disabled Kepler
11-19-2013
New Plan for a Disabled Kepler
With 2 reaction wheels failed (Kepler was launched with four) the spacecraft is prone to rolling about its telescope’s line of sight, especially when its solar panels are unevenly illuminated by sunlight. But sunlight can be used to stabilize Kepler if it is pointed in directions along a circle known as the ecliptic — the path traversed by the sun through the zodiac. Kepler could record the rise and fall of supernova explosions and study stars and planets in a variety of environments. See full article.
Read News: There could be as many as 40 billion habitable Earth-size planets in our galaxy
11-05-2013
There could be as many as 40 billion habitable Earth-size planets in our galaxy
Many news stories reported on the Nov 5 Kepler Press Conference at the 2nd Kepler Conference at NASA Ames Research Center.
Read News: New Role for Disabled Kepler? Finding Exotic Alien Worlds
09-09-2013
New Role for Disabled Kepler? Finding Exotic Alien Worlds
Article in National Geographic article by Ker Than explaining how Kepler could be repurposed to spot planets by studying the gravitationally warped light of distant stars. See article.
Read News: NASA ponders Kepler's future
09-04-2013
NASA ponders Kepler's future
Nature article by Ron Cowen is about how Kepler could continue to hunt for planets — or take on alternative tasks, such as asteroid spotting. See article.
Read News: SPIE.TV video interview with Jon Jenkins
08-28-2013
SPIE.TV video interview with Jon Jenkins
SPIE.TV, video interview with Jon Jenkins, Kepler Mission Analysis Lead
http://spie.org/x102923.xml?WT.mc_id=ZTWZ

Read News: Kepler’s Tally of Planets
08-20-2013
Kepler’s Tally of Planets
New York Times interactive animation of Kepler mission's confirmed planets of known size and orbit.
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/science/space/keplers-tally-of-planets.html

Read News: NASA To Stop Efforts To Fix Kepler's Reaction Wheels.
08-16-2013
NASA To Stop Efforts To Fix Kepler's Reaction Wheels.
NASA's announcement that it will stop trying to fix the Kepler spacecraft's non-functioning reaction wheels received coverage by major national and regional papers, as well as major newswires. The coverage usually noted that Kepler's mission was considered a success, much of its data has yet to be examined, and that NASA is looking for ways to still utilize the telescope.
Read News: Kepler telescope getting a makeover? Join the NASA spacecraft club
08-16-2013
Kepler telescope getting a makeover? Join the NASA spacecraft club
Article in Los Angeles Times by Amina Khan and Eryn Brown: " ...As part of a time-honored tradition, the space agency is calling on scientists and engineers to submit ideas for new ways to prop up [NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft] and pull more scientific discoveries out of its still-working instrument. See article.
Read News: Five of the
07-22-2013
Five of the "Ten Worst Places to Live in the Universe" are Kepler Planets
Five Kepler planets are in Popular Science's "Ten Worst Places to Live in the Universe." Five, if you count TrES-2b, which is in the Kepler target field and also designated Kepler-1b.
Read News: Lost and found
06-08-2013
Lost and found
An article in The Economist about Kepler.
Read News: Kepler Stars (And Planets) Are Bigger Than Thought
06-05-2013
Kepler Stars (And Planets) Are Bigger Than Thought
A team checking up on results from NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope finds that most of Kepler's target stars -- and therefore any orbiting planets -- are bigger than expected. The discovery makes the search for small, Earth-like worlds more difficult.
Read News: Exoplanet Studies After Kepler: What’s next?
05-24-2013
Exoplanet Studies After Kepler: What’s next?
Sky and Telescope article by by Mark Zastrow featuring Kepler Co-I David Latham.
Read News: Flywheel
05-20-2013
Flywheel
Reaction wheels ...are simple devices, at least in concept. But making ones that can survive the rigors of a rocket launching and then spin for a long time to keep a spacecraft properly oriented — in Kepler’s case, to keep its telescope precisely pointed at the same field of stars — is difficult. Article in the New York Times by Henry Fountain.
Read News: NOAO: A Kepler’s Dozen
05-13-2013
NOAO: A Kepler’s Dozen
Kepler’s discovery of hundreds of planet candidates around other stars has inspired a new book that combines both science and science fiction: A Kepler’s Dozen: Thirteen Stories about Distant Worlds that Really Exist. This anthology is co-edited by David Lee Summers (author of The Pirates of Sufiro and editor of Space Pirates) and Dr. Steve Howell (Kepler Project Scientist).
Read News: Are We Alone? section in
05-06-2013
Are We Alone? section in "Science World" by Scholastic
The May 6th issue of Scholastic's weekly magazine for kids called "Science World" included a section on Kepler. See the article.
Read News: Science Weekly Issue on
04-23-2013
Science Weekly Issue on "The Kepler Space Telescope"
Kepler featured in Science Weekly – Copyright © 2012, Volume 29, Number 1 "Kepler Space Telescope." Featuring six spiraling reading levels for Grades K-6 and Teaching Notes, with hands-on lab activities, using the scientific method, coordinated with math, writing and more for each grade level.
Read News: Kepler's Tally of Planets (Interactive)
04-23-2013
Kepler's Tally of Planets (Interactive)
...by Jonathan Corum, New York Times: This is an interactive showing more than 100 Kepler planet discoveries with a known size and orbit, including five planets orbiting Kepler 62, announced on April 18.
Read News: Dead Star Warps Light of Companion Red Star, Astronomers Say
04-05-2013
Dead Star Warps Light of Companion Red Star, Astronomers Say
NASA's Kepler space telescope, in concert with Cornell-led measurements of stars' ultraviolet activity, has observed the effects of a white dwarf star bending the light of its companion red star, an effect predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity.
Read News: Kepler Data Suggests Earth-size Planets May Be Next Door
02-06-2013
Kepler Data Suggests Earth-size Planets May Be Next Door
Astronomers estimate that six percent of red dwarfs have a temperate Earth-size planet, as close as 13 light-years away.
Read News: Planets Abound
01-02-2013
Planets Abound
Caltech-led astronomers estimate that at least 100 billion planets populate the galaxy.
Read News: First 'Alien Earth' Will Be Found in 2013, Experts Say
12-27-2012
First 'Alien Earth' Will Be Found in 2013, Experts Say
Space.com article by Mike Wall ... The first truly Earth-like alien planet is likely to be spotted next year, an epic discovery that would cause humanity to reassess its place in the universe.
Read News: Habitable Exoplanets Catalog features Kepler-22b and planet candidates
12-19-2012
Habitable Exoplanets Catalog features Kepler-22b and planet candidates
Kepler-22 b is listed in the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog (http://phl.upr.edu/projects/habitable-exoplanets-catalog) maintained by the Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL), at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo.
Read News: Gemini Observatory Captures Sharpest-Ever Ground-Based Image of Pluto and Charon
09-27-2012
Gemini Observatory Captures Sharpest-Ever Ground-Based Image of Pluto and Charon
What does this have to do with Kepler, you ask? Article has quotes by Steve Howell, Kepler Deputy Projet Scientist---quotes that are relevant to Kepler. Read on.
Read News: Study Finds Comet-Like Tail Streaming From Exoplanet
09-05-2012
Study Finds Comet-Like Tail Streaming From Exoplanet
2 studies employed Kepler telescope data in studies of the planet orbiting the star KIC 12557548 which is a roughly Mercury-size world being boiled away by the intense heat of its parent star which seems to have a massive dust cloud shed by the planet, similar to the tail of a comet.
Read News: Explore 2,000 exoplanets? Slip on your g-speak gloves.
08-17-2012
Explore 2,000 exoplanets? Slip on your g-speak gloves.
Data artist Jer Thorp brings Kepler's discoveries to life with John Underkoffler's gesture-based g-speak spatial operating environment. Article from Sep 2012 issue of Wired Magazine.
Read News: Some newfound planets are something else
06-07-2012
Some newfound planets are something else
A new study that put some of Kepler’s thousands of candidate planets to the test using a complementary method for discovering celestial objects in stellar orbits suggest that 35 percent of candidate giants are impostors, known in the planet-hunting business as false-positives.
Read News: Press coverage of the announcment of Kepler Mission extension
04-06-2012
Press coverage of the announcment of Kepler Mission extension
In response to the rolling announcement of Kepler's 'four more' years, coverage and response has been enthusiastic with over 170 articles.
Read News: Transit of Venus 2012 Articles in The Planetarian
03-20-2012
Transit of Venus 2012 Articles in The Planetarian
Two articles about transit of Venus 2012 in The Planetarian, Journal of the International Planetarium Society (IPS)
Read News: Extrasolar Planets: the Saga Continues
02-06-2012
Extrasolar Planets: the Saga Continues
...an article by Paul Deans in the Winter 2012 issue of Mercury magazine from Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Download article as PDF.
Read News: Planet Proliferation Spawns News Articles
01-27-2012
Planet Proliferation Spawns News Articles
The January 26 Kepler news occurred at 1130a PST . By 2pm there were 30 articles; by 6pm there were 60; and by midnight nearly 100 articles covered the announcement. Today (January 27), there are over 200 posted.
Read News: British TV Audience Discovers Potential New Planet
01-19-2012
British TV Audience Discovers Potential New Planet
Chris Holmes from Peterborough UK and Lee Threapleton also from the UK found a planet through Planethunters.org in connection with UK television program “BBC Stargazing LIVE”
Read News: Kepler-34, 35 and KOI-961
01-11-2012
Kepler-34, 35 and KOI-961
Many news stories about the discovery of Kepler 34b and Kepler 35b as well as KOI-961
Read News: Kepler’s surprise: The sounds of the stars
01-04-2012
Kepler’s surprise: The sounds of the stars
Article by Ron Cowan, Nature. Data from NASA's Kepler space telescope have revolutionized the search for planets outside the Solar System — and are now doing the same for asteroseismology. Studying the vibrations of these distant stars helps us better understand the Sun.
Read News: A Year of Discoveries for Kepler
01-04-2012
A Year of Discoveries for Kepler
Article by Michael Mecham, Aviation Week and Space Technology. For those seeking life-sustaining worlds far, far away, 2011 was a year of discoveries for NASA’s Kep­ler telescope that culminated with images of the first two Earth-size planets observed outside the Solar System Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f.
Read News: Happy Birthday Johannes Kepler
12-27-2011
Happy Birthday Johannes Kepler
Listen to Garrison Keillor (of Prairie Home Companion) in The Writer's Almanac entry for Dec 27, Johannes Kepler's birthday
Read News: Evidence for Two More Earth-Sized Planets ...Orbiting Former Red Giant Star
12-26-2011
Evidence for Two More Earth-Sized Planets ...Orbiting Former Red Giant Star
Article by Paul Scott Anderson, Universe Today. A University of Arizona press release and article in the journal Nature delineate evidence for two Earth-sized planets around a dying star that has passed the red giant stage. This may shed new light on the destiny of stellar and planetary systems, including our solar system.
Read News: Earth-Sized Planets Discovered
12-21-2011
Earth-Sized Planets Discovered
Article by Frank Morring, Jr., Aviation Week and Space Technology.
Read News: Kepler is #4 in Discover Magazines Top 100 Stories of 2011
12-12-2011
Kepler is #4 in Discover Magazines Top 100 Stories of 2011
The Jan/Feb 2012 Discover magazine is their annual "Year in Science" and Kepler is #4 for top stories for 2011. The article is "New-Planet Boom Faces a Budget Bust" It describes Kepler's accomplishments.
Read News: Hot on Trail of ‘Just Right’ Far-Off Planet
12-02-2011
Hot on Trail of ‘Just Right’ Far-Off Planet
New York Times article prominently features the Kepler Science Conference that is happening December 4-9. Full Article.
Read News: Oh, the Places We Could Go
11-15-2011
Oh, the Places We Could Go
Article in the New York Times about a new exhibit, "Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration," where visitors step “Star Trek” style into the hologram at the end of the exhibit and are surrounded by a thousand points of light that represent the first thousand stars found by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft to have planets.
Read News: Petition to White House to disclose the government's knowledge of and communications with extraterrestrial beings
11-05-2011
Petition to White House to disclose the government's knowledge of and communications with extraterrestrial beings
Kepler Mission is cited in White House response to a petition to White House to disclose the government's knowledge of and communications with extraterrestrial beings (with 5,387 signatures) and petition to formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race (with 12,078 signatures)
Read News: Kepler-16b featured in Weekly Reader
11-04-2011
Kepler-16b featured in Weekly Reader
In the November 4, 2011 issue of the Weekly Reader, classes could read about Kepler-16b, the first planet scientists have found that orbits two stars. Students also learned about the spacecraft researchers used to discover the planet.
Read News: NASA's Planet Hunter Needs Money to Keep Searching for Earth's Twins
09-27-2011
NASA's Planet Hunter Needs Money to Keep Searching for Earth's Twins
NASA needs to extend the lifespan of a very special spacecraft: Kepler, the agency's designated planet-hunter. Kepler is the only mission that can answer an existential scientific question that humans have: how common are other Earths? [Article by Alexis Madrigal, senior editor for The Atlantic] See full article.
Read News: Star Measurements Hint at Many More Abodes for Life
09-23-2011
Star Measurements Hint at Many More Abodes for Life
Reexamining a group of stars observed by NASA's Kepler spacecraft, astronomers say they have identified a trove of candidate planets that are both Earth-sized and potentially habitable. See full article.
Read News: Articles about Kepler-16b
09-16-2011
Articles about Kepler-16b
Announcement of the planet with two suns made a bit of a media splash....
Read News: Jumpy stars slow hunt for other Earths
09-06-2011
Jumpy stars slow hunt for other Earths
Nature 477, 142-143 (2011) | doi:10.1038/477142a ...The Kepler spacecraft has hit an unexpected obstacle as it patiently watches the heavens for exoplanets: too many rowdy young stars. ... an analysis of some 2,500 of the tens of thousands of Sun-like stars detected in Kepler's field of view has found that the stars themselves flicker more than predicted, with the largest number varying twice as much as the Sun. That makes it harder to detect Earth-sized bodies.....
Read News: Kavli Foundation - Exoplanets: How the Milky Way is Surprising Scientists
08-01-2011
Kavli Foundation - Exoplanets: How the Milky Way is Surprising Scientists
EARLIER THIS YEAR, astronomers announced that, beyond our solar system, there are hundreds of possible planets in a small region of the Milky Way Galaxy. These potential planets range from gaseous planets much larger than Jupiter to suspected rocky planets a few times more massive than Earth. As of September 13, researchers had confirmed 20 of these 1,235 candidates are actual planets. See full article.
Read News: Kepler's Dilemma: Not Enough Time
07-27-2011
Kepler's Dilemma: Not Enough Time
Article by Kelly Beatty, Sky & Telescope Magazine. From all accounts, NASA's Kepler spacecraft has been an unabashed success since its launch 2½ years ago. ... an astounding 1,235 candidate planets in just the first four months' observations. This cache brims with multiple-planet systems: 115 doubles, 45 triples, and 10 with at least four. ...But brightness fluctuations from the stars being watched by Kepler are ... much more variable than the Sun... the spacecraft would need to amass at least 7 or 8 years of observations — double the planned mission length — to identify all the Earths passing in front of solar-type stars in the spacecraft's field of view.
Read News: Kepler Searches for Habitable Planets
07-18-2011
Kepler Searches for Habitable Planets
Scientific American podcast: NASA's Kepler mission's principal investigator, Bill Borucki, talks about the search for exoplanets that might be habitable. Part 2 of 2.
Read News: Stellar Odd Balls
06-04-2011
Stellar Odd Balls
Kepler is a planet hunter, seeking evidence of Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of Sun-like stars. But, Kepler has found a bonus, a treasury of wonders, or one might say a stellar freak show out in space. Kepler's high-precision photometry probes the lives of stars in ways not possible before, and astronomers are being called to mine the rich data from this mission.
Read News: By seeking shadows, NASA telescope hunts for new planets
06-04-2011
By seeking shadows, NASA telescope hunts for new planets
...Every few seconds, the 95-megapixel camera on Kepler measures the brightness of 156,000 individual stars in this area to a precision of better than 1 part in 10,000. ... Kepler is having spectacular success. Its science team has reported 1,235 “planet candidates’’ ...the statistics from Kepler are strengthening the idea that most stars have planets. Team member Geoffrey Marcy estimated that 80 percent of all stars are planet-bearing....
Read News: Kepler Spacecraft Shows That Smaller Planets Abound
05-24-2011
Kepler Spacecraft Shows That Smaller Planets Abound
NASA's planet-hunting satellite is making the case that it's a small-world galaxy, after all. By John Matson, Scientific American. See Full Article.
Read News: How to Learn a Star's (and Its Planets') Age
05-23-2011
How to Learn a Star's (and Its Planets') Age
Stars slow down as they age, ...so the speed of rotation is a good measure of a star's age -- and the ages of any of its planets. Homing in on Earth-like planets means finding places that are about the same age as Earth.
Read News: SETI search to look at 'likely' worlds
05-16-2011
SETI search to look at 'likely' worlds
BERKELEY, Calif. (UPI) -- U.S. astronomers searching for alien life say they'll aim radio telescopes at some likely candidates among 1,235 planets discovered by a NASA space telescope. Astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley say once they acquire 24 hours of data on a total of 86 Earth-like planets among those found by the Kepler space telescope, they'll ... ask an estimated 1 million SETI@home users to conduct a more detailed analysis on their home computers....
Read News: Hunting for Planets from the Comfort of Your Own Home
04-14-2011
Hunting for Planets from the Comfort of Your Own Home
by By Michael D. Lemonick, TIME. ...a project dreamed up by Yale University astronomer Debra Fischer, a veteran planet hunter and Kepler project scientist, has turned out to be so extraordinarily useful. Called Planethunters.org, it lets ordinary folks with no scientific training at all help find planets the Kepler software has missed.... Read Full Article
Read News: Shooting for the Stars
04-07-2011
Shooting for the Stars
Article in Science by Michael H. Montgomery - Observations with the Kepler space telescope are revealing details of the internal structure of distant stars. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/332/6026/180 See also podcast interview with Michael Montgomery at http://www.sciencemag.org/content/332/6026/180/suppl/DC1
Read News: NASA’s Kepler helps Iowa State’s Kawaler, astronomers update census of sun-like stars
04-07-2011
NASA’s Kepler helps Iowa State’s Kawaler, astronomers update census of sun-like stars
NASA's Kepler spacecraft is allowing Iowa State University's Steve Kawaler and an international team of astronomers to study changes in the brightness of 500 stars like our sun. The data will give astronomers a much better understanding of the stars, their properties and their evolution. The findings are published in the April 8 issue of the journal Science. Kawaler said, "This helps us understand more about the formation of stars and how they evolve. These new observations allow us to measure the detailed properties of stars at an accuracy that wasn't possible before."
Read News: Kepler Telescope Reveals Diversity In Red Giant Stars.
03-31-2011
Kepler Telescope Reveals Diversity In Red Giant Stars.
Space.com (3/31, Choi) scientists using the Kepler telescope "have taken the pulse of red giant stars by measuring their starquakes - stellar shivers that run so deep they can reach a star's core, scientists say." By doing so, the team led by Timothy Bedding of the University of Sydney, hopes to "help scientists separate the vastly different types of red giants that would otherwise look virtually identical, which could help shed light on the future of our sun and the history of the galaxy." ...
Read News: APOD: Kepler's Suns and Planets
03-29-2011
APOD: Kepler's Suns and Planets
Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is Kepler's Suns and Planets by Jason Rowe, Kepler Mission. The image depicts 1,235 candidate planets orbiting other suns since the Kepler mission's search for Earth-like worlds began in 2009, ordered by size from top left to bottom right. Stars and the silhouettes of transiting planets are all shown at the same relative scale, with saturated star colors. ...some stars show more than one planet in transit, but you may have to examine the picture at high resolution to spot them all....
Read News: Kepler makes the CNN News Stream's Top 100 on Twitter
03-28-2011
Kepler makes the CNN News Stream's Top 100 on Twitter
On the day of the 100th episode of CNN's News Stream--a one hour social media-powered news program that highlights user-generated content--CNN compiled a list of the 100 tweeps (those who tweet) who have informed and inspired their coverage from day one. @NASAKepler and @NASA made the list!
Read News: “Most Earth-Like” Exoplanet Gets Major Demotion—It Isn’t Habitable
03-08-2011
“Most Earth-Like” Exoplanet Gets Major Demotion—It Isn’t Habitable
From Discover Magazine blog (excerpt): ...last month, when astronomers with the Kepler space telescope released a list of 1,235 possible planets orbiting other stars, one particular candidate, KOI 326.01, especially stood out. Scientists, journalists, and the general public couldn’t help it: In a population of planetary candidates dominated by sizzling, Jupiter-sized gas giants—which are much easier to spot—here was the closest thing yet to our very own planet. It was just about the size of Earth, even a little smaller, and had a temperature around 138 degrees—rather warm for human tastes, but still a place where liquid water could rain down from clouds into oceans, and where life as we know it could possibly exist.... Alas, KOI 326.01’s 15 minutes of fame must now end. Additional analysis of the planet’s star now suggests that the planet is a lot larger, and most likely a lot hotter, than previously thought. “The details of the planet need to be hammered out, but this certainly means that this is not an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone,” where liquid water could exist, says Natalie Batalha, a Kepler team member....
Read News: Astronomy 2012: Watch a Planet Transit With Your Own Eyes!
03-01-2011
Astronomy 2012: Watch a Planet Transit With Your Own Eyes!
from National Geographic "Breaking Orbit" blog. "...If you've been following the exploits of NASA's Kepler spacecraft, you probably already know that the mission finds new planets using what's called the transit method. ...So far, Kepler has confirmed 15 new planets using transits, and an additional 1,200 planetary candidates were recently announced. And next year, people around the world will be able to watch a transit of an Earth-size planet with their own eyes.... OK, fine, I admit—the planet in question is our own Venus. But that's still pretty cool, because Venus transits are exceedingly rare...."
Read News: Flurry of News Articles About Data Release and Kepler-11 System
02-03-2011
Flurry of News Articles About Data Release and Kepler-11 System
Search for articles about the Kepler Data Release and Kepler-11 six-planet system turns up over 980 articles. Dennis Overbye commented in the New York Times article of 2010 Feb 2: "Astronomers have cracked the Milky Way like a piñata, and planets are now pouring out so fast that they don’t know what to do with them all."
Read News: James Webb, Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler
01-26-2011
James Webb, Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler
In a AAS American Astronomical Society) Newsletter article: The James Webb Space Telescope and the Decadal Survey, Kepler is in a short list of space telescopes in operation (along with Hubble and Spitzer).
Read News: Alien Planets Hit the Commodities Market
12-17-2010
Alien Planets Hit the Commodities Market
by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, Science, AAAS.
Excerpt:
.... A software application for iPhones and iPads keeps track of exoplanet discoveries; the score crossed 500 as this article was being written. Hundreds more may soon follow as astronomers pursue some 700 candidates that NASA's Kepler space telescope detected in the first few months after its launch in March 2009.
Although most of the planets discovered so far are gas giants, an analysis of the Kepler data has convinced researchers that smaller Earth-like planets abound in the universe and that improved detection capabilities in the coming years will turn up scores of them just in our galactic backyard….
Astronomers expect Kepler to find several Earth-like planets in the next few years. Already, researchers are planning new ground- and space-based instruments to take spectra of the atmospheres of some of those habitable planets….
Full article: Science 17 December 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6011 p. 1620 DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6011.1620.

Read News: 'Sagan Day' essay contest appeals to love of discovery
11-09-2010
'Sagan Day' essay contest appeals to love of discovery
By Diana Samuels, Daily News Staff Writer, San Hose Mercury News. Excerpt: … Today, on what would have been Sagan's 76th birthday, NASA Ames' Kepler Mission and the SETI Institute in Mountain View are celebrating his influence with an essay contest. Essay finalists have been posted daily on the Kepler Mission's website for several days, and Renee James, an associate physics professor at Sam Houston State University in Texas, was named as the winner today. …They received about 40 submissions from all over the world, said Natalie Batalha, deputy science team lead with the Kepler Mission. …Several well-known professional scientists and astronomers also participated in the contest as "guest" essayists, including Geoffrey Marcy, whose team at the UC-Berkeley's Center for Integrative Planetary Science has discovered about half of the 350 known planets around other stars, and Sagan's son, science writer Dorion Sagan. …Rui Borges, who lives in Portugal and volunteers on public outreach efforts for the Kepler Mission, developed the idea for the contest. Kepler is a spacecraft operated from NASA Ames, launched last year to survey the Milky Way Galaxy for Earth-size planets. "We are now actively seeking for what is on the other side of the ocean," Borges wrote in an e-mail to The Daily News. "And Carl is here with us. Smiling as we are now ready to, once more, embrace the open sea... We at the Kepler Mission would like to invite everyone to come along with us on this quest, on this journey of discovery and knowledge."
Read News: Hints on Dark Matter and a Wealth of Planets
11-09-2010
Hints on Dark Matter and a Wealth of Planets
By DENNIS OVERBYE, New York Times. Excerpt: Both planetary science and cosmology are ripe for big news in 2011, the former in its effort to find planets beyond the Earth and the solar system that could harbor water and thus life as we know it, and the latter in the unending effort to figure out what the universe is made of. …Finding out how common habitable planets are around Sun-like stars is the mission of NASA’s Kepler satellite, …. Last June, the Kepler team released a list of 350 stars thought to be harboring planets, but at the same time, and over the protests of some astronomers, they held back the data on 400 more stars that they wanted to check out over the summer. …The smallest planet on the previous list was about one and a half times the diameter of the Earth. … in an e-mail message Natalie Batalha, a co-investigator on Kepler, said it would not be unreasonable to suspect that there is a smattering of planet candidates smaller than that on the new list. More small planets could also show up as more data is analyzed, she said. ... a recent survey by University of California astronomers, Andrew Howard and Geoffrey Marcy, concluded that about a quarter of all Sun-like stars should have Earth-size planets. If indeed there are Earth-size planets in the Kepler 400, however, Dr. Batalha and others hasten to point out, these would not quite be the planets of our dreams. An Earth-like planet… would take about a year to complete a circuit around a star like the Sun. Kepler … would need an additional year or two to record enough blips to determine that it was indeed in a habitable, water-friendly orbit around a star like our Sun…. Read full article.
Read News: The Occurrence and Mass Distribution of Close-in Super-Earths, Neptunes, and Jupiters
10-29-2010
The Occurrence and Mass Distribution of Close-in Super-Earths, Neptunes, and Jupiters
by Howard, Marcy et al. Science 29 October 2010. The questions of how planets form and how common Earth-like planets are can be addressed by measuring the distribution of exoplanet masses and orbital periods. Source: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/330/6004/653. See also "Solar Systems Like Ours May Be Common" (ScienceMatters@Berkeley, Volume 7, Issue 57).
Read News: NASA Survey Suggestions Earth-sized Planets Are Common
10-28-2010
NASA Survey Suggestions Earth-sized Planets Are Common
WASHINGTON -- Nearly one in four stars similar to the sun may host planets as small as Earth, according to a new study funded by NASA and the University of California.
The study is the most extensive and sensitive planetary census of its kind. Astronomers used the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii for five years to search 166 sun-like stars near our solar system for planets of various sizes, ranging from three to 1,000 times the mass of Earth. See http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/oct/HQ_10-279_Keck.html. See also: UC Berkeley Science Matters article.

Read News: Goldilocks planets waiting for just-right rockets
10-18-2010
Goldilocks planets waiting for just-right rockets
Snippet: ...A team led by Steve Vogt of the University of California, Santa Cruz, announced two weeks ago the discovery of Gliese 581g, a possible habitable world, one only about three times heavier than Earth. It's orbiting its star at a distance amenable to oceans.... But a Geneva Observatory astronomer, Francesco Pepe, this week announced his team couldn't find the Gliese 581g.... NASA's ... Kepler...team announced 706 "candidate" solar systems had turned up in its first sweep of stars extending out to about 3,000 light years away (one light year is about 5.9 trillion miles.) ... with more than 100,000 stars to examine ... Kepler looks like it will find something interesting in the next three years, according to Kepler scientist William Borucki of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif....
[see Full article]

Read News: 500th Alien Planet Could Be Discovered This Month
10-12-2010
500th Alien Planet Could Be Discovered This Month
"Where we are, I'd expect that by the end of October, we'll be at 500 if things keep going the way they're going," said Jon Jenkins of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute. Jenkins is the analysis lead for NASA's planet-hunting Kepler mission. And the 1,000th world could be discovered surprisingly soon, as the space-based Kepler mission has already offered up hundreds of planet candidates that await further observation and confirmation.
Read News: Kepler featured in Astronomy magazine.
10-06-2010
Kepler featured in Astronomy magazine.
The November issue of Astronomy magazine has feature article on NASA Kepler mission.
Read News: A Dance of Extrasolar Planets
10-01-2010
A Dance of Extrasolar Planets
by Gregory Laughlin, in Oct 1 issue of Science. Abstract: Launched in March 2009, the Kepler mission is tasked with searching for extrasolar planets. It continuously monitors 156,000 stars in a ~100-squaredegree patch of sky covering a portion of the galactic disk centered on a direction lying in the constellation Cygnus (1). On page 47 of this issue, Holman et al. (2) report the discovery of a transiting planet whose orbit of 38.9 days varies by up to 1 hour due to the interaction with other planets in the system. This Saturn-sized world, known as Kepler-9c, circles a Sun-like star 2300 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Lyra, and is part of a bizarre system containing three transiting planets, whose mutual gravitational tugs generate an exquisitely choreographed orbital dance. Far from being mere curiosities, the planets of the Kepler-9 system may provide vital clues to the mechanisms of planetary formation and orbital evolution.
Read News: Kepler Scientists Announce Transiting Multiple-Planet System
08-27-2010
Kepler Scientists Announce Transiting Multiple-Planet System
Within 24 hours after the media telecon of 2010 Aug 26, more then 200 news outlets published information on the new planetary discoveries from the Kepler Mission.
Read News: Rumors in Astrophysics Spread at Light Speed
08-02-2010
Rumors in Astrophysics Spread at Light Speed
New York Times article by Dennis Overbye. See full article at
http://www.nytimes.com/201083/science/space3kepler.html?_r=1.

Read News: Digital artist/producer for Kepler wins Telly Award
06-22-2010
Digital artist/producer for Kepler wins Telly Award
The National Geographic program "Alien Earths" which Dana Berry (SkyWorks Digital, Inc.) wrote and produced and aired in the fall of 2009 is a "silver award" winner of the "Telly Awards." Dana Berry created many of the fine animations found on the Kepler website animations page.
Read News: In the Hunt for Planets, Who Owns the Data?
06-15-2010
In the Hunt for Planets, Who Owns the Data?
New York Times Online - SCIENCE - By DENNIS OVERBYE As excitement builds about a list of stars newly suspected of harboring planets, some astronomers are questioning why the Kepler team is holding back some of the data.
Read News: Astronomers Search For Rocky, Habitable Planets In Other Solar Systems
03-31-2010
Astronomers Search For Rocky, Habitable Planets In Other Solar Systems
By Sarah Nelson, Northwest Science & Technology. Excerpt: To most of us, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" is just the opening of a familiar nursery rhyme. To astronomers looking for planets orbiting stars other than our own Sun, the twinkling of a distant star could mean something much more interesting. Finding planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets, is an active area of research in the field of astronomy. …When a planet passes in front of a star, making its transit, the amount of light we see from that star drops by a tiny fraction. Inferring the presence of an exoplanet by detecting this dip in light is known as the transit method. According to University of Washington astronomer Rory Barnes, this technique was suggested a long time ago but only recently applied to exoplanetary discovery. "Just seeing it once, you don't necessarily know if you saw a transit," says Barnes. The second time establishes a period equal to the length of the planet's orbit. A third observation is convincing evidence that there is indeed a planet orbiting that distant sun. In the case where the planet is about as far from its star as the Earth is from the Sun, it would take three years to observe three transits. "You have to be patient, that's the biggest challenge," says Barnes. …The near future of exoplanetary research will be affected by NASA's Kepler Mission, which is aimed at finding Earth-sized, terrestrial exoplanets in the habitable zone. Launched in May 2009, Kepler has already enabled the detection of five exoplanets via the transit method, from its survey field of roughly 150,000 stars. The mission is expected to find hundreds, if not thousands, of exoplanets before its scheduled 2012 completion, according to Kepler co-investigator Alan Gould. While most telescopes have a field of view the size of a "grain of sand," says Gould, Kepler's is the size of a human hand held at arm's length, … the biggest telescope that has ever been launched into space. Exoplanetary researchers like Barnes await Kepler's findings. "I think Kepler is going to prove some of the biggest advances in our field," says Barnes. "Up until this point, exoplanets have really been a case by case study, there have just been so few of them. Now we'll get to a point where we'll understand their general properties and how our solar system fits in. ...
Read News: Article and Interview with Bill Possel, Director of Kepler Mission Operations
03-05-2010
Article and Interview with Bill Possel, Director of Kepler Mission Operations
One year ago Saturday, NASA's Kepler spacecraft, built in Boulder by Ball Aerospace, was successfully launched into the night sky to search for planets that could be similar to our own -- other worlds that might support life. Article plus interview with Bill Possel, Director of Mission Operations, can be seen at http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_14521839#ixzz0iGYdDZAi
Read News: Mixing Kepler and Equality
02-19-2010
Mixing Kepler and Equality
2010 Feb. Mixing Kepler and Equality. by Kathleen M. Wong, ScienceMatters@Berkeley. Excerpt: A greeting from Star Trek might seem odd from the man leading campus efforts to diversify students, faculty and staff. After all, helping Berkeley recruit, promote, and retain people of color is a full-time job in and of itself. Yet [Gibor] Basri devotes his nights and weekends to his other passion: the stars. A professor of astronomy and an expert on the stellar objects known as brown dwarfs, he is also a co-investigator of the Kepler mission to find rocky, temperate worlds similar to earth. Planet hunters have already found dozens of planets outside our solar system, virtually all gas giants like Jupiter. "All we know about life is that it can arise on rocky planets like the earth," Basri says. "Kepler will tell us a lot more about that kind of planet." In doing so, Basri and his collaborators will move humanity one step closer to finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.Kepler is designed to detect one thing: the dimming of light caused by the passage, or transit, of a planet in front of a star. Observing the transits of rocky exoplanets is virtually impossible with ground telescopes. Turbulence in the atmosphere makes earthbound observations less reliable, and limits observing to nighttime. "It takes a few hours for the earth to cross the disc of the sun when seen from far away. Then you have to wait 365 days for it to happen again. You don't want to be prevented from observing when that occurs," Basri says. Even from space, observing planet transits is a delicate business. Phenomena such as flares and sunspots can drastically alter a star's brightness, making it harder to distinguish planets. An expert in understanding how the light output of stars varies, Basri explains how Kepler overcomes this with an analogy of using the background brightness of all 150,000 observed stars as a yardstick. "The average of all of the stars ought to stay fixed, and you can measure the brightness of each star against that," Basri says….
Read News: Astrophysicist shares early findings of mission hunting for Earth-like planets
02-09-2010
Astrophysicist shares early findings of mission hunting for Earth-like planets
By Sheena McFarland, The Salt Lake Tribune. Excerpt: ...Jason Steffen, who is doing post-doctoral research at the Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics and who earned his undergraduate degree at Weber State University, visited the Clark Planetarium to share the early findings of the Kepler Mission with a sold-out crowd Monday night of more than 200. "The compelling question is how many Earths are there to date? We don't know that answer, but Kepler is out there to find the answer to that question," Steffen told The Tribune .
Read News: Kepler to locate new Earths?
02-09-2010
Kepler to locate new Earths?
Joe Bauman, Deseret News blog writer. Excerpt: The Kepler probe, launched 11 months ago to hunt for Earthlike worlds around other stars, has already discovered planets, an astrophysicist said Monday night. Although none yet announced is Earthy, five were detected in the probe's first 43 days of taking data -- and eight months have passed since then.
Jason Steffen of the Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics told a capacity crowd at Clark Planetarium about Kepler's first results, which were announced in January. A graduate of Davis High School and Weber State University, Ogden, Steffen earned his master's degree and doctorate at the University of Washington, Seattle.
...The crowd's size was a pleasant surprise to planetarium director Seth Jarvis. "We are excited to see so many people interested in learning about extrasolar planets," he said. Half an hour before the lecture began, cashiers reported that only about 40 tickets were sold. Then the auditorium filled. "Right now this is the only planet that we know of that is habitable," Steffen said. But that could change within a few years as Kepler's results come in....

Read News: NASA Ames expects new jobs under budget proposal
02-03-2010
NASA Ames expects new jobs under budget proposal
NASA Ames is currently leading the Kepler mission, an unmanned spacecraft searching for Earthlike planets circling other stars.
Read News: SJSU professor looking 'light-years away' for planetary discovery
02-02-2010
SJSU professor looking 'light-years away' for planetary discovery
Excerpt: Natalie Batalha, an associate professor of astronomy and physics at SJSU, and her colleagues at NASA Ames Research Center may be on the brink of discovering a habitable, earthlike world orbiting a distant star.
For the last ten years, Batalha has been a co-investigator for the Kepler Mission, which has been designed specifically to hunt for habitable planets orbiting stars light-years away in the local region of the Milky Way Galaxy, as well as understanding how these planets came to be.
"The holy grail of the mission is to find an Earth-sun analog," Batalha said. "We want to find a place that looks like home."
Batalha said she and her fellow investigators are looking for planets in what astronomers call the "Goldilocks zone," which is described as the distance around the parent star that is neither too hot nor too cold for life to form....
Photo credit: Thomas Webb

Read News: Proposed budget steers NASA in a new direction
02-01-2010
Proposed budget steers NASA in a new direction
ABC - KGO news story. Excerpt: MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA (KGO) -- President Barack Obama's budget will have a profound impact on NASA. Its budget is not being cut, but the way NASA will have to spend the money is going to change, and that includes scrapping a new mission to the moon.
When you or your team have discovered almost half the planets in the known universe, there is certain relief at federal budget time in knowing you are safe.
Dr. Geoff Marcy of UC Berkeley is a Kepler astronomer and one of many people funded by NASA who viewed Monday's space budget with more than a little curiosity....

Read News: Over 100 Articles About Kepler's First Discoveries
01-26-2010
Over 100 Articles About Kepler's First Discoveries
Spreadsheet listing over 100 articles from January 2010.
Read News: We will find 'twins of Earth' this year, says astronomer Michel Mayor
01-26-2010
We will find 'twins of Earth' this year, says astronomer Michel Mayor
London Times Online.
Snippet: Scientists will have detected the first truly Earth-like planet outside the solar system by the end of the year, one of the world¹s leading astronomers predicted yesterday.
Professor Michel Mayor, of Geneva University... said that Nasa¹s Kepler spacecraft, which is carrying the largest telescope to have been sent beyond the Earth¹s orbit, will be the first to find a planet that meets both these criteria. Full article.

Read News: Are we alone? We may soon find out
01-26-2010
Are we alone? We may soon find out
... Astronomer Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, said ..."Kepler is the first one capable of detecting substantial numbers of planets no bigger than the earth. So we will know within two or three years which are Earthlike and in Earthlike orbits in the sense of being the right distance from their parent star."
See Full Article

Read News: Best of What's New 2009 - NASA Kepler Space Telescope.
12-01-2009
Best of What's New 2009 - NASA Kepler Space Telescope.
Kepler has been named the 2010 Best of What's New grand prize winner in the aviation/space category by Popular Science magazine.
Read News: Most Brilliant Innovators of 2009: Kepler Space Telescope.
11-10-2009
Most Brilliant Innovators of 2009: Kepler Space Telescope.
Popular Mechanics. Excerpt: ...As president of his Delavan, Wis., high school science club in the 1950s, William Borucki helped build a devicea magnetometer coupled with ultraviolet and infrared transmittersto contact UFOs. The technology was sound, but the test subjects never showed up. However, Borucki, now a space scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, didn't abandon his preoccupation with aliens. For two decades, he has argued that by taking pictures of planets as they pass in front of their home stars, scientists could identify likely sites for life in other solar systems. ...He and his colleagues persevered in the face of enduring skepticism from NASA managers. Borucki and Doug Caldwell of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute proved they could capture the images with charge-coupled devices, or CCDs, like the ones used in digital cameras. SETI's Jon Jenkins wrote algorithms to distinguish small planets from the "noise" of deep space. Fellow Ames scientist David Koch banged together a miniature steel-and-Styrofoam demonstrator with the help of machine shops in the Bay Area. "By 2000, we had done all the things they asked," says the soft-spoken Borucki, now 70 years old. With the launch of an instrument-laden rocket last March, the mission, dubbed Kepler, became reality. Award - ASTRONOMY: PLANET-SEEKING SPACE TELESCOPE INNOVATORS: Eric Bachtell (Ball Aerospace), William Borucki, David Koch (NASA), Doug Caldwell, Jon Jenkins (SETI Institute), David Latham (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) BRILLIANT IDEA: A multiyear survey of 100,000 stars, in search of planets where alien life may thrive.