Visit Kepler at Yuri's Night Bay Area!

Kepler fans, if you live in California in the Bay Area, visit our booth (#121 in the hangar) at Yuri’s Night Bay Area tomorrow, Saturday April 10, noon to midnight. Visit for ticket prices, directions, musical guests, and more details on exhibits & entertainment.

Here are some highlights:

  • 300,000+ square feet of festival space and open tarmac
  • Two colossal aircraft hangars
  • Two stages of entertainment
  • Aerial demonstrations over the airfield
  • Large and small scale art and performances
  • Interactive art and technology exhibits
  • Ample parking and shuttle service
  • Access to mass transit
  • Full food concessions
  • Beer and wine gardens
  • Full VIP tent
Hope to see you there!

Kepler has people thinking…

Comment written by Richard Dierking, an attendee at a Kepler teacher workshop in December 2009

Kepler has been the subject of about every science related publication I’ve seen recently. It’s really got people thinking.

A couple of months ago, I did a Kepler presentation with groups of GATE students at an Elementary school. At the end of these presentations, I always like to ask, “So, let’s say we do discover Earth-like planets – What then?” As usual, one of the kids answered, “well, we go there.” But it’s so far away I replied. During the presentation, I describe a light year and how far away even the closest stars are. However, this time, another kid that was intently following the whole presentation, answered, “well Mr. Richard, don’t worry about that! You just show us where they are, and we’ll figure-out a way to get there.” Wow, I enjoy sharing information with these kids.

A Winter Attitude

Since I promised everyone a more regular input to this blog, I guess I should try to live up to that promise.  I’m afraid I took some time off over the holidays after such a busy year.

The Kepler spacecraft uses four distinct attitudes for its observations. We’ll monitor the same part of the sky all the time, but as the spacecraft orbits the sun, the geometry of it all requires that we periodically roll the vehicle a quarter of a revolution (90 degrees) to keep sunlight falling on our solar panels, and the radiator that keeps the detectors cool pointed to deep space. The focal plane has been built with four-fold symmetry and the mission has been designed such that we roll the spacecraft exactly 90 degrees, about every 91 days. That’s four times an “orbital year”, and we conveniently term them our Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter attitudes. The spacecraft orbits the Sun in 372 earth days. We launched into the Spring attitude, and since then we’ve been rolling the vehicle per plan. Just before the holidays, we rolled to the Winter attitude, so now the vehicle has “seen it all”! We’ve now successfully operated in all four of the attitudes that we will use of the entire duration of the mission over and over again.

Each roll has been a bit of an adventure, as we are rolling to an attitude we’ve never been at before. While taking science data, we guide the spacecraft with fine guidance sensors located in the four corners of the focal plane, so we use the same guide stars, season after season. The star trackers mounted on the outside of the spacecraft that provide our coarse pointing during non-science activities (like downloading data to the ground) are pointed more or less off to the side and see different stars in different seasons. This means we do have to be a bit careful with each roll. Last month, one of the new star tracker guide stars proved to be tracking poorly and we had to switch stars to get stable enough to transfer over to the fine guidance sensors.

And although we’ve already been at the Spring attitude, we have changed the way we track stars with the fine guidance sensors and we’ll have to be a bit careful to get it right. But at least the star trackers will recognize their view. A year after launch, come March, the trackers will once more see the same stars they saw when we first started taking science data.

Charlie Sobeck, Kepler Chief Engineer

Welcome to the New and Improved Kepler Mission Blog!

Update: find the main page of this blog at Subscribe to the blog’s rss feed by clicking on the orange icon on the top right.

Sorry we’ve been gone so long, hopefully we’ll reward your wait with some interesting reading.

I know there are a lot of people out there interested in the Kepler Mission and how things are going. We’ve asked team members to submit content, to give you some glimpses into what they’re doing, with very little filtering. So you should soon be seeing postings from a variety of personalities with different interests and writing styles. Just what they will be writing about I can’t quite imagine, but we did give the team some guidance, so here’s what you might expect:

  • Everyone has agreed to be civil and follow normal etiquette, but there will be no political correctness police,
  • This will not be the forum for the release of mission results, so we will refrain from discussing the raw findings that come from Kepler, though there may be some stories later, after official announcements have been made, about how we did it and how it felt,
  • We will be sensitive to our supervisors and will not be announcing late breaking news about mission anomalies before they have a chance to learn about them through channels, but once they have been reported we may well try to give you an inside look at how our understanding evolved,
  • Since we want to let the team members write what they want with little filtering, you may find contradictions in the entries, and we do not guarantee the accuracy of all the numbers put out, but maybe that will be a feature, an opportunity for the public to ask us for clarification!

The Kepler team is quite busy, but we want to share our excitement in this mission, so we’ll try to keep this blog more lively from now on, with at least one entry each week.

Visit us online! It’ll be fun!

Posted by Charlie Sobeck, Kepler Chief Engineer