August 6 2009: NASA scientists to discuss preliminary Kepler telescope results

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Good news - Kepler has been in operation since May 12, and on August 6th there is going to be a briefing about Kepler's early results so far over the first 12 weeks or so (80+ days). Less than three months of observations would only be enough to confirm planets that are extremely close to their stars, since the Kepler mission as a rule will only confirm planets that have been observed three times in order to be sure that what is being seen actually is a planet and not something else, or a glitch, so if planets of this type haven't been discovered then they might just hint at what has been seen so far.

Here at it says that Kepler has already observed a sub-stellar object that we've already known about as a test, so we do know that the telescope works as intended. It doesn't say which object that is, but if we hadn't discovered it before Kepler then that single observation alone wouldn't have been enough to announce its discovery.

Note that there are extrasolar planets with orbital periods as short as a bit more than a single day, so a telescope like Kepler would be able to confirm their existence within a single week. We're going to need a lot of discoveries from Kepler this year in order to up the number of planets discovered in 2009, which so far is (surprisingly) lagging behind 2008.


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