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The Kepler Mission to Establish the Frequency and Characteristics of Planets Around Other Stars

Abstract: The scientific objective of the Kepler Mission is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems. This is achieved by surveying a large sample of stars to: 1. Determine the abundance of terrestrial and larger planets in or near the habitable zone of a wide variety of stars; 2. Determine the distribution of sizes and shapes of the orbits of these planets; 3. Estimate how many planets there are in multiple-star systems; 4. Determine the variety of orbit sizes and planet reflectivities, sizes, masses and densities of short-period giant planets; 5. Identify additional members of each discovered planetary system using other techniques; and 6. Determine the properties of those stars that harbor planetary systems. With over two years of data collected and almost that much reduced to some level, it is clear that there is an overwhelming variety of planetary systems around old solar-type and smaller stars in our Galaxy. Although not enough time has passed to give an adequate signal from a true earth-like analog, it is becoming clear that such will most likely emerge in the near future. In the meantime, we have discovered a vast zoo of truly remarkable planetary systems, greatly increasing the diversity of known planetary system architectures. Theorists will have many years work ahead of them to explain it all. I will present some of the more recent findings from the latest data release from the Kepler Mission. In addition, I will also relate some of my experiences from the standpoint of an instrument builder on all the intricacies of krafting the hardware for the imaging photometer for this mission, which lies at the heart of the instrument.
Speaker: John Geary - Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Speaker Bio: John Geary received his PhD in Astronomy from the U. of Arizona in 1975. He has worked exclusively in the field of astronomical imaging systems since that time, developing some of the earliest applications for the rapidly expanding offerings of solid-state imaging technology for precision work in this context. In addition to using the sometimes spotty offerings of the imager industry in past years, he has designed and successfully fabricated many useful CCD imagers for astronomical applications. In recent times, he has developed the hardware architecture for numerous large array cameras, both for optical and near-IR use. Since the inception of the present Kepler Mission, he has been a member of the Science Team, responsible to reviewing the technical details of the photometer design, construction, pre-launch testing, and post-launch performance and diagnosis of problem areas.
Poster Link: Poster