Kepler: Are There Any Good Worlds Out There?
Dr. Jon Jenkins
The Kepler Mission began its science observations just under two years ago on May 12, 2009, initiating NASA's first search for Earth-like planets. Initial results and light curves from Kepler are simply breath-taking, and they reveal as much about the instrument as they do about the stars Kepler observes. The first confirmed rocky planet, Kepler-10b, was announced in January 2011. Kepler released light curves for the first 120 days of observations for over 150,000 target stars on February 2, 2011, and announced the identification of over 1235 planetary candidates, including 68 candidates smaller than 1.25 Earth radii, and 54 candidates in or near the habitable zone of their parent star. Kepler also discovered a system of 6 transiting planets orbiting one Sun-like star. I will discuss how much we've learned over the 22 months about the instrument and the stars and how we are modifying the Science Pipeline to reveal small Earth-like planets in habitable zones of their stars.