Kepler First Science

Kepler First Science

This is the morning of Kepler. I’m currently sitting in a the Marriot Ballroom watching the speaker, William J Borucki (NASA/Ames) gear up to announcing planets. This amazing mission has been imaging the same rich stellar field over and over looking for planetary transits: the slight dimming of light from a star that comes from an orbiting planet passing between us and that distance star. After 20 minutes of gearing up, he announced 5 new planets with orbital periods between 3.2 and 4.9 days orbiting stars larger than the sun at orbital distances 4.31 to 18.8 times the size of the Earth’s orbit. Because the stars are bigger than the Sun (by an amount not shown in the table), this is hard to quantify – they could be very near the stellar...

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Multi-periodic Variables, or Playing Sudoku with Stars

As a researcher, I have to admit that I have been a bit unfocused, or perhaps dually focused is a better way to put it. My first research gig was doing a Quasar survey at 17 using a 6-meter optical telescope. My next job had me working in radio on T Tauri variable stars at Haystack observatory using VLA data. These two projects set me up for a lifetime of intellectually ping-ponging between radio emitting galaxies (which lured me into galaxy clusters) and variable stars. Even today I find the research part of my hard drive split between 2 variable stars I need to write up for publication and a galaxy evolution project using SDSS. Diversity keeps me happy. But diversity doesn’t always make me popular. Over the years I’ve taken a lot of [insert negative...

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