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1 freetoken  Thu, Sep 29, 2011 7:31:37pm

They are still working with a very limited set of data. NASA hasn’t released a great deal of Kepler collected data yet.

2 Achilles Tang  Thu, Sep 29, 2011 7:37:22pm

re: #1 freetoken

So, you’ve run through it all already have you? :)

3 Achilles Tang  Thu, Sep 29, 2011 7:54:44pm

re: #1 freetoken

I should add, in only spending a few hours and going through a few hundred stars, I have found several likely planets, and close binaries, although I was not the first to highlight those.

There’s a lot of em out there.

4 freetoken  Thu, Sep 29, 2011 8:45:24pm

re: #3 Naso Tang

It’s a fascinating topic and I commend anyone who wants to get involved. I’ve been following the Kepler project from before its launch and I lament that young people today don’t seem to appreciate how historic the announcement of planet discoveries are.

The Kepler team is intentionally withholding data on the best prospects. This caused a bit of heartburn when it was announced but the Kepler team does have a good case that making a public announcement about really important discoveries (such as an earth sized planet in the habitable zone) should only be done after thoroughly checking the data, and any announcement of such a planet should only come after the candidate has been promoted due to confirmation (by radial velocity measurements.) All of this takes time as the observation season on the ground is only during the NH summer-fall and it takes many RV measurements to confirm that a star is being tugged on by its planets. Plus, since the Kepler team have been doing all the work these many years they ought to be the ones who get to announce the big discoveries.

Furthermore, it takes time for NASA to do the preprocessing of the data downloads from the satellite.

For those two reasons the public release of the data is well behind the observation schedule. Only a small fraction of the Kepler data has been released so far.

The Kepler team doesn’t announce a candidate unless it passes the 5-sigma threshold, so there are probably many 3 and 4 sigma possibilities in the data. And the Kepler software doesn’t necessarily catch every possibility that would meet the team’s threshold, as witnessed by a recent announcement.

When the next public release comes it will likely have many more quarters of data - then you’ll have a sea of data to explore.

Note that false positives are always lurking about. If you go to the Kepler NASA webpage there are links to papers discussing all the possibilities and how they are trying to determine the f.p. from the real solar systems.

It’s a shame that the Kepler mission was only designed for 42 months, as the data now shows that stars are a bit noisier (in their brightness) than previously thought - another example of a Kepler discovery - and this means the S/N probably won’t be good enough to measure down to a planet he diameter of the Earth. And our Tea Partying congress is unlikely to cough up the money for extending the Kepler mission, even if the satellite hangs on for a while longer.

5 Achilles Tang  Thu, Sep 29, 2011 9:47:33pm

re: #4 freetoken

Thanks for the summary, and you have spent more time analyzing the broader picture than I have, although you sound somewhat down in general.

However In my more brief endeavor I have found clear signals for quite a few planets, even though already identified as candidates and perhaps a few less obvious ones as my skills improved.

I think though that the enterprise doesn’t depend so much on how long it continues, since the proof has already been demonstrated and we are not going there anytime soon, but the picture will remain.

Simply knowing that all of the rejections for planet candidates that I made are statistically dependent on the simple requirement that the orientation of the system must be oriented to close alignment with Earth to be detected has to mean that I rejected many planetary systems in my examinations.

I can remember only a few years ago that this was a total unknown in the Drake Equation.

To that extent it is solved and that is major. I feel a certain community with the cosmos as a result.

6 freetoken  Thu, Sep 29, 2011 10:07:33pm

re: #5 Naso Tang

Certainly the Kepler results will show that most main sequence stars have “things” orbiting them.

I think though that the enterprise doesn’t depend so much on how long it continues, since the proof has already been demonstrated and we are not going there anytime soon, but the picture will remain.

The extended missions are to increase the total amount of observations, which are needed to detect an Earth-size planet in an Earth-like orbit to a level where a 5-sigma confidence threshold is passed on the data.

I’m not so much “down” on the whole affair as much as cautious, as I know that our society as a whole doesn’t really know how to deal with all of this information, and the popular press reliably slaughters science stories. The detection of planets is really difficult, and if you read any of the papers/notes from the teams collecting, processing, and analyzing the data one is confronted with the enormity of the task.

Which is why it costs a lot of money.

Which our society doesn’t seem interested in doing any more.

The next step in observational astronomy really does require the JWST to, among many other things, try to get detailed spectra from the atmospheres of transiting planets. Also, a space-born observation platform to do radial velocity measurements, which isn’t in anybody’s plans yet, is needed to get the accuracy to measure the masses of planets the size of Earth or Venus around G class stars like our own sun. None of this is likely to be funded by any government soon.

Nevertheless, the planethunters website will certainly be an attraction for those who wish to delve into the data without struggling with all the gory details at MAST.

7 sagehen  Fri, Sep 30, 2011 6:35:21am

If I find one, will they name it after me? And do I get a continent of that planet (or at least mid-sized island) that becomes something I can leave to my heirs?

8 FemNaziBitch  Fri, Sep 30, 2011 7:41:56am

I don’t want my own planet. Keeping the house clean is hard enough.

Besides, I wouldn’t really get it, the Cat Overlord would. I figure, if he want’s his own planet, he can decree it.

9 Achilles Tang  Fri, Sep 30, 2011 7:59:51am

re: #6 freetoken

Just to note that a habitable zone doesn’t have to be around a sun size star. There are many possible dwarf candidates out there too, and it is easier to detect planets around them.

10 Achilles Tang  Fri, Sep 30, 2011 8:01:44am

re: #7 sagehen

If I find one, will they name it after me? And do I get a continent of that planet (or at least mid-sized island) that becomes something I can leave to my heirs?

It won’t be named after you, but your name could be on a list of those who first identified it.

If you want a continent however you will have to convert to Mormonism, then die.

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