Kawaler, an Iowa State University professor of physics and astronomy, plans to celebrate the new research program by witnessing the mission’s launch in early March (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration says the mission is currently scheduled to launch on March 5) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The mission has a lot for astronomers to get excited about.
Looking for planets that could support life was “the stuff that got me interested in astronomy when I was a kid,” Kawaler said.
And he said the mission’s space telescope will do a lot to advance his research of stars and their interiors.
“We’ve been doing this work the hard way – from the earth, which is a spinning platform,” Kawaler said.
To overcome the Earth’s rotation, a research collaboration called the Whole Earth Telescope was established in 1986 to coordinate star observations and share data. Kawaler, who has served as director of the project, said even a whole-earth collaboration has significant limits.
Weather can get in the way of observations and data collection. No two telescopes are exactly the same and so produce subtly different data sets. Ground measurements can’t be as precise as measurements from space. And funding hasn’t been available to do observations for more than a few weeks at a time.
“Kepler will do this the right way,” Kawaler said. “Kepler will give us a huge amount of data. About 170,000 stars will be observed every half hour, continuously, for three and a half years or more.”
The Kepler mission will launch a CCD photometer (the equivalent of a 95 megapixel camera) into space. The instrument will use an aperture that’s nearly one meter in diameter to collect data about the Cygnus-Lyra region of the galaxy. Its primary job is to find any variations in the brightness of the stars within its view.
Tiny dips in brightness can signal a planet passing in front of its star. Scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California will lead a team studying those planetary transits. Data from the transits can reveal the planet’s size, orbit and temperature. That will allow researchers to find earth-sized planets that orbit within the habitable zone of their stars.
Another team of researchers – the Kepler Asteroseismic Science Consortium – will use the same data to study the internal structure of stars. The consortium is led by Jorgen Christensen-Dalsgaard and Hans Kjeldsen of Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark, and Kawaler serves on the project’s 12-member steering committee.
The consortium will study how the spheres of gas that make up stars oscillate and change brightness. Studies of those star quakes can answer questions about the interior properties of stars such as their density, temperature and composition. It’s similar to how geologists study earthquakes to learn about the Earth’s interior.
Consortium scientists will also use the data to measure the exact sizes of stars with earth-like planets.
The scientists should begin seeing new data about 90 days after Kepler’s launch.
Kawaler is looking forward to seeing where the new information takes researchers.
“Fifteen years ago we knew of one planetary system,” he said. “Now we know of 300-plus, but only one Earth. This is our chance to find dozens of other Earths.”
Steve Kawaler | Newswise Science News
UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion
16.11.2018 | University of New Hampshire
NASA keeps watch over space explosions
16.11.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
19.11.2018 | Event News
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
19.11.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.11.2018 | Information Technology
19.11.2018 | Life Sciences