Science Team Spotlight

Pavel Machalek, Ph.D. 

Data scientist, Kepler Mission 
A Day In The Life 
PPavel Machalekavel Machalek is a data scientist for the Kepler Mission. Prior to joining the team, he obtained his own funding to work on the Spitzer Space Telescope using infrared photometry to investigate Hot Jupiters, studying their temperature and structure. For Kepler, he is currently working on light curve settings for the photometer, detecting high precision photometry of Hot Jupiters as they travel behind their star. A good portion of Pavel’s day is spent troubleshooting issues, searching out possible defects in Kepler’s photometry. This work contributes to the day-to-day operation of the satellite. He and other data scientists must ensure that the data products streaming from the satellite are still valid on a bi-weekly, monthly and quarterly cycle in an iterative process to ensure that the photometer’s data runs smoothly. When necessary, he works closely with the Science Operations Center (SOC) to improve the software code and resolve issues. Pavel also helps produce documentation for both the pipeline and the public data release notes and is beginning to collaborate with the team on the Kepler scientific papers. 
Meaning of the Mission 
“The number one goal is to find a habitable planet, a second Earth; this mission doesn’t have the capability to discover life on an Earth-like planet, just the capability to discover a planet that lies in the habitable zone. This mission will also discover how frequently these rocky planets occur. I believe the idea of denouncing the possibility of a unique single Earth is an atheistic crusade; it is a way to fight back against religious dogmatism. It would be interesting to find out whether our Earth is the only one in the Universe or whether there are many others. In particular, it would be fascinating to contrast age-old and firmly held theological beliefs regarding the uniqueness of the Earth and our place in the Universe to the tantalizing possibility that there could be dozens, hundreds or even thousands of other worlds similar to our own.” 
To read Pavel’s biography, click here
By Kepler blog contributor, Marlowe Primack.