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NASA's Kepler Mission Extended For Two Years

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the keep-it-going dept.

NASA 58

An anonymous reader writes "A report just released from NASA's senior review panel recommends extending the Kepler mission(Pdf), initially for two years. 'Kepler is not only a unique source of exoplanet discoveries, but also an organizing and rallying point for exo-planet research. It has enabled remarkable stellar science." The scaled-down budget for the extended mission was broadly expected to include funding only for continued operations and management, with no funding for science. Astronomers have already started seeking private funding to continue their Kepler-related work, through crowd-funding websites like PetriDish and FundaGeek, as well as through the non-profit Pale Blue Dot project."

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58 comments

Wonderful (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567087)

This is awesome! The longer Kepler is up, the more chance it has of finding Earth-like planets. It isn't simply a matter of probability, but the need to see three transits to get confirmation. So at least two Earth years, but often more like 3-5 years. The longer it is up, the more longer orbital period planets it will find!

I love this!

Re:Wonderful (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39567125)

This is awesome! The longer Kepler is up, the more chance it has of finding Earth-like planets. It isn't simply a matter of probability, but the need to see three transits to get confirmation. So at least two Earth years, but often more like 3-5 years. The longer it is up, the more longer orbital period planets it will find!

I love this!

Shitcock.

Re:Wonderful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39567483)

Did I steal your first post?

Re:Wonderful (5, Insightful)

mattie_p (2512046) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567273)

This is awesome! The longer Kepler is up, the more chance it has of finding Earth-like planets. It isn't simply a matter of probability, but the need to see three transits to get confirmation. So at least two Earth years, but often more like 3-5 years. The longer it is up, the more longer orbital period planets it will find!

I love this!

I appreciate your optimism, but the NASA senior review panel has absolutely nothing to do with funding decisions, which are all in the hands of Congress. Unless crowd-sourcing works (which is effective for such things as Kickstarter comic book drives, but not science, last I checked), and is more effective than the white house official petition website (aka, not effective) NASA will be out of luck, sad to say.

Re:Wonderful (2)

honkycat (249849) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568017)

It's not fair to say they have "absolutely nothing to do with funding decisions." A negative review can quite certainly kill a mission. A good review is something like a necessary, but not sufficient, condition, to get the funding necessary.

Re:Wonderful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39569293)

We have been told by NASA headquarters we are getting the money. Once they promise money it is very difficult to go back on this.

Re:Wonderful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39572951)

Unless crowd-sourcing works (which is effective for such things as Kickstarter comic book drives, but not science, last I checked)

Check again -- the PetriDish project mentioned in the original post raised more than $12,000 for a computer cluster to analyze Kepler data. Not much in the grand scheme of things, but it demonstrates public enthusiasm for this science.

Re:Wonderful (1, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39570137)

I REALLY hate to be a party pooper but....why? Frankly our engine tech hasn't really evolved since Nazis were using them to drop V2s on london so even if we find a bazillion worlds out there our pathetic tech means that even if we sent a generation ship you are talking tens of thousands of years before we could even get there, much less any chance of turning around if you find its just a big rock without the ability to sustain life.

Personally while I think its great they are keeping it going, simply because its a sunk cost and therefor wasteful to just toss it when it could be doing useful work, i think we have better uses for our limited space budgets than looking for planets a bazillion light years away. After all we have two, possibly three, places where we might find life in our very own solar system not to mention we should probably be looking ahead to when our supplies start to run low and should be mapping what resources are where for the possibility of future mining.

Like I said, really glad they are not just pulling the plug as long as its got power, but I just don't think other than using this until its used up that we should be devoting any real resources to this when we have no way to even get to our outer planets in any reasonable amount of time, much less leave the system. Hell even sending a "Is there anybody there?" message to most of these at the speed of light would be on the order of hundreds or even thousands of years.

Re:Wonderful (2)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39570821)

Twenty years ago, we knew of 9 planets. Now we can begin to do statistical analysis on families of solar systems. It's a huge affirmation of long-held suspicions that previously had no real data to support them. It's a huge boost to being able to model solar system formation. It's really useful information EVEN THOUGH you can't fly to those planets yourself and crunch around on the surface in your hiking boots. Ugh.

We can't dictate advances in propulsion technology on a schedule that's convenient for your agenda of galactic conquest. NASA is a (maybe the) major investor in breakthrough energy and propulsion technologies for spaceflight. Take a look here if you want your opinions to be clouded by some actual facts;

http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/early_stage_innovation/niac/index.html [nasa.gov]

Re:Wonderful (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39579609)

Your "facts" change nothing and are nothing but an attempt to gloss over the facts. here let me spell them out, 1.-you have a VERY limited budget for space, 2.-You have two, possibly three planets in our own solar system where life might be found, 3.- There are a lot of resources out there that could be VERY useful to the human race in the near future.

So give us ONE reason, just one mind you, as to why your statistical analysis should take precedent over these things much nearer to earth, that we can actually reach in our lifetimes?

Hell if we had unlimited budgets i'd say go for it, hell personally i'd kill off half the crap the military blows cash on and build our entire economy on space and high tech, but sadly that ain't reality. reality is NASA has a VERY limited budget with which to work and frankly your pet project has VERY little use outside number crunching. Sorry friend but we have to prioritize our spending and other space projects need it more than you and can produce results we can use.

But it's too expens--OW (5, Insightful)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567261)

Just like SETI, it always ticks me off when space and science projects are shelved because "it costs too much".

The cost to run SETI a year = one army fighter plane
50 years of NASA = the bank-bailout

I've shut people up who say "the space program costs too much!" with those two facts alone. It'd be nice if we did spend too much on astronomy and science. "Sorry Mr. President, we can't go to war with (insert country with oil or other resources we want control of). We decided to spend money on cool shit that's gonna expand our feeble minds for once."

Re:But it's too expens--OW (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39567317)

Uhm...there are no army fighter planes...fighter aircraft only exist in the airforce and naval services...

Re:But it's too expens--OW (1, Insightful)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567477)

Uhm...there are no army fighter planes...fighter aircraft only exist in the airforce and naval services...

Does anybody really care?

Do you realise that what you pointed out adds absolutely nothing to the whole point he was making?

It is obvious you did it just to find something to moan about. TBH, its pretty sad when you're doing it over something so piteously irrelevant as a minor grammar error.

Re:But it's too expens--OW (0, Offtopic)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567613)

The resident tedious nit-picking fucks on /. are hard to listen to, aren't they?

I don't know about you but I've started taking a zero tolerance approach to these pedantic assholes who get off on correcting people and divert potentially interesting threads off topic because of the precise meaning of certain words used in a summary, rather than actually talking about the topic at hand.

Re:But it's too expens--OW (5, Interesting)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567757)

There's a fine line between "these pedantic assholes who get off on correcting people" and people who disagree with you and are therefore wrong.

Grandparent has a decent point, but the fact that he whiffed on several key points detracts from his argument. No, the army doesn't have fighters. Also, No, the president can't declare war. You might call it a pendantic asshole point when I say that we haven't gone to "war" in 70 years. But, calling every military action a "war" is incorrect. Just as the president using the military as his personal pop-gun squad without the approval of the people (or more accurately, their elected representatives.) is incorrect. It's not that hard to double check something, especially here on ye olde intertubes. Doing so kinda fits with that whole "Do it right the first time" ethic that has died off in society these days.

If you want to make your point heard, don't run around screaming half-assed, half remembered sound bites. Make a simple, well thought out, perhaps even slightly researched point. It's harder to refute. You also find out interesting things like the fact that it costs a mere $2.5 million dollars per year to run the Allen Seti array (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/08/10/success-seti-array-back-on-track/), and that the government accounting office was estimating a cost of $412 million per unit for the F-22 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-22_Raptor#Production_and_procurement). So you could run the array for about 165 years on the cost of "one army fighter." 165 years vs. 1 year? Gosh, that argument just gained some interesting new perspective, and I did it without sounding like your drunk uncle who spent thanksgiving bleating out Rush Limbaugh's fascinating rhetoric and explaining how liberals are ruining the country.

Re:But it's too expens--OW (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567909)

There's a fine line between "these pedantic assholes who get off on correcting people" and people who disagree with you and are therefore wrong.

During SETI's time when it was shut down, that's as much as it'd cost. I didn't say F-22, that's getting extremely specific, and it goes by today's standards; if I say "my house is worth as much as a car" (which in some cases, it is; a POS trailer built in the 60s when electricians got their licenses from a 7-11, apparently), for you to assume that it's the cost of an Audi as compared to a Hyundai isn't my fault. The statement is true, it just needs more specifics, as in which model, new/used, etc.

So when it comes to the aircraft-comparison, I'd tell you to consult Sagan on which aircraft he'd meant, as it's his statement altogether, not mine. I mean, he's dead, but still; I can't remember which addendum to which 'Cosmos' episode it was in which he says that, but I can look it up. So the formula (circa 1993, the time period when SETI was canceled, which model Sagan spoke of) as it relates to my statement isn't based on your F-22 argument. That wasn't during Carl's time, nor the time SETI was taken down. So perhaps I should have added that as HIS factoid to make it clear that we weren't talking about today's standards.

Re:But it's too expens--OW (0)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568713)

There's a fine line between "these pedantic assholes who get off on correcting people" and people who disagree with you and are therefore wrong.

But "the air force doesn't have fighters" isn't even disagreeing with the person. So how can it possibly be on that side of the line?

You might call it a pendantic asshole point when I say that we haven't gone to "war" in 70 years. But, calling every military action a "war" is incorrect.

It's not incorrect in any way that matters in this context. What you said is only correct in a legal context. For the purpose of the point being made "war" is any large military conflict -- what most people would call war despite the legal definition, e.g. the Vietnam War.

Which is more important to the OP's point: Whether something was labelled a "war" by Congress, or whether we were spending large amounts of blood and treasure in combat?

Pedantry only makes sense in contexts where precise, technical definitions exist. In natural languages like English, words like "war" have broad definitions and it makes no sense to nitpick whether Desert Storm was technically a war or not.

I call that "useless pedantry" or "slashdot pedantry". "Pedantic asshole point" would be another way of putting it. Key idea is that it's basically a factoid with no relevance.

If you were a lawyer, would you defend your client accused of murdering someone with a knife by saying that it was technically a kris?

Make a simple, well thought out, perhaps even slightly researched point. It's harder to refute.

How well researched does the point "I wish we couldn't conduct wars because of all the money we were spending on science, instead of vice-versa" need to be? Useless pedantry allows you to say that they were technically wrong about something, but the problem is with whoever thinks that means it was "refuted". Like you're going to convince them of anything anyway.

Don't get me wrong -- obviously research and proper communication are important. Getting details right is better than not. You can't control how other people think, you can only control how you frame your message so they can best receive it.

I'm talking about whether you believe such pointlessly pedantic arguments actually refute anything. All it lets you do is say "you were wrong!" in some way. Seems like that'd only be enough if you just wanted to prove that because they disagreed with you, they were therefore wrong. And see, they technically were wrong about something! It all holds together!

This is all I'm getting at.

I did it without sounding like your drunk uncle

Hey!

I'll have you know my drunk uncles are quite capable of spouting out accurate factoids that nevertheless miss the point.

Re:But it's too expens--OW (5, Insightful)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569255)

You might call it a pendantic asshole point when I say that we haven't gone to "war" in 70 years. But, calling every military action a "war" is incorrect. Just as the president using the military as his personal pop-gun squad without the approval of the people (or more accurately, their elected representatives.) is incorrect.

What a ridiculous thing to say. War is an English word with a commonly accepted meaning, i.e.:

war (wôr)
n.
1.
a. A state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties.

The Iraq War was a war. The Vietnam War was a war. The Afghanistan War is a war. They're all called wars in natural English language, and they all meet the criteria. Sending 100,000 troops into a sovereign nation with the express purpose of toppling their government and replacing it with one friendly to your cause is a war in as classic a sense as you can get.

Whether the White House has found some legal loop hole that allows them to avoid doing what the constitution says they have to do to go to war doesn't have any relevance. If the Attorney General found a way of classifying Afghanistan as a Charity Bake Sale it still wouldn't make it one; it would just mean that the legal code has more holes than Swiss cheese.

Re:But it's too expens--OW (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569443)

+1 to everything you said, I wish I had mod points. Ask the Iraqis or the Vietnamese or the Afghans if they were in a war and I think you'd see unanimous agreement. Maybe not a war that threatens US territory or require any wartime means within US borders, but obviously a war. Even the President agrees with this, here's a few quotes from his Nobel Prize speech:

But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. (...) Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land.

Invading foreign countries in an act of war, and action speaks louder than words. It is a war whether Congress signs off on it or not, I think the GP is the only one to "resolve" this constitutional issue by concluding that since no war is declared there can't be a war.

Re:But it's too expens--OW (1)

Sigg3.net (886486) | more than 2 years ago | (#39577737)

The old saying goes: it looks like armrd conflict, it walks like armed conflict, it quacks like armed conflict. It probably is a war.

But then we'd have to give War on Terror (1984), War on Drugs, War on Full-Frontal Nudity aso. a new set of names. Like domestic policy.

Americans use war like arabs use jihad. Populisticly.

Re:But it's too expens--OW (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39567779)

Uhm ... 'air force' is two words; the US Army has Apache helicopters, which have some air-to-air capabilities and are therefore fighter aircraft; prior to 1947, all US fighter planes were part of the Army Air Corp, so every fighter plane in WWII was an 'army fighter plane', and several nations have fighter planes under their army.

So, while being pointlessly pedantic, you failed to be pedantic enough.

Re:But it's too expens--OW (0, Redundant)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568987)

The United States Air Force started out as a part of the U.S. Amry Signal Corps, and later evolved into the Army Air Corp... being commanded by a Captain (army... equivalent to a Lieutenant in the Navy) when that was formed no less. Many other countries also followed a similar pattern.

There was talk right before the Gulf War for the U.S. Army to take over the duties of flying and maintaining the A-10 fighters and perhaps even reconstituting the Army Air Corps (when went over like a lead balloon with the USAF). Army fighter planes aren't exactly a new idea and you can't say they don't exist. Nearly 100,000 men died in World War II wearing U.S. Army uniforms while flying/piloting airplanes and it disgraces their memory to suggest they never existed.

Or more likely I simply should have said something short and pity in response: Whoosh!

kickstarter for a space probe? (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567363)

man, i am with you 100%. but lets think about it, what do those two things have in common? war and bailouts? it is the government wasting our money because our corrupt politicians take 'campaign contributions' (bribes) from companies and hedge funders, and then they decide the government budget that will benefit those 'investors' that profit from war and from bailouts.

we are just going to have to start funding this stuff ourselves. imagine all the school kids who are still idealistic about this stuff. i know i was when i was in the 6th grade. imagine if each one of them across the world could raise $1 and some how funnel it through the internet a la a crowdfunding thing like kickstarter. i mean if i could spend a $1 to help a space probe, i would have done it.

maybe we can just evolve that model a little bit? and then we can tell the government to go @#$ itself.

Re:kickstarter for a space probe? (4, Insightful)

malilo (799198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567411)

Ding ding ding! Here is the infographic version of the above comment: http://www.republicreport.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/ROI-1024x460.jpg [republicreport.org]

Re:kickstarter for a space probe? (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568167)

And everybody wonders why the government is inept and the country bankrupt.

Re:kickstarter for a space probe? (1)

Lotana (842533) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568359)

That is a very informative chart. Thank you for posting it.

Re:But it's too expens--OW (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39567549)

We have perpetual war as a fixture now of American society because the two dominant political groupings are both Progressive and deem it highly useful: It keeps most of the patriots, and that subset of them that would actually risk their lives to stand for something, with busy work to do and, even more key, out of the country. For the remainder of the population, it's continuousness numbs us and renders us docile. Just exactly how people who want societal "progress" like it.

Then since the largest of the Progressive groups is the Far Left, the rest gets spent on socialism, administered by a big, bloated central bureaucracy. That leaves nothing for science (which they've compromised anyways).

Re:But it's too expens--OW (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | more than 2 years ago | (#39571363)

NASA has plenty of money but it is being funneled to the Pork in Houston to be squandered on manned spaceflights while real science flounders....

Kepler's produced great stuff (3, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567339)

But I think already we have the important data: thousands of planets! And these are just that tiny fraction that have orbits that take them across the line between their sun and ours. Thousands of times as many planets have orbits that would not cause a transit.

The point is we now have enough data to estimate the density of planets in the galaxy. So you could say the basic goals of Kepler have been accomplished and the rest is gravy.

Re: Kepler's produced great stuff (4, Insightful)

poly_pusher (1004145) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567541)

We do have enough data. That is until we find something so outlandish that we need more data... It's a very sophisticated piece of equipment that is already in space. Considering how successful it's been, if we can continue to use it without having to send a manned mission to fix it, then we should just keep it operational as long as possible.

Re: Kepler's produced great stuff (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594249)

I agree with that, and that's what NASA's fixin' ta do.

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39567589)

What Kepler has produced so far is amazing, granted. But more time observing is invaluable in itself, you get to observe more transits of the same planets as the years go by.

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (5, Informative)

mendelrat (2490762) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567829)

But I think already we have the important data: thousands of planets! And these are just that tiny fraction that have orbits that take them across the line between their sun and ours. Thousands of times as many planets have orbits that would not cause a transit.

The point is we now have enough data to estimate the density of planets in the galaxy. So you could say the basic goals of Kepler have been accomplished and the rest is gravy.

The Review panel agrees with you, and even goes further to politely tap the Kepler science team on the bottom and to try to point them in the right direction. Looking at the "Proposal Weaknesses" section (emphasis is my addition):

Since masses cannot be determined, Kepler can only directly measure an upper limit to [the frequency of Earth-like planets]. The proposal over-emphasizes the capability of Kepler to directly determine [the frequency of Earth-like planets] as compared to the contribution of Kepler determination of exoplanet statistics. The strong focus of the proposal on the detection of a few (e.g. 0 – 20) “Earth-like” bodies leaves the plan subject to criticism for the very high dollar cost of a few new objects, few or none of which can be followed up for mass characterization through Doppler shift measurements.

So basically they are telling the Kepler science team (rightly so) to pipe down about the Earth-like planets we can't do any more science with at this time and instead talk about the amazing stuff they can do with the statistics they've gathered. This is not even talking about what else can be done with these data; Kepler is an outstanding stellar astrophysics mission.

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (1)

Spinalcold (955025) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568365)

I'd like a link. because you can predict, to a degree of error masses. hell Pluto was proposed because of how well we can calculate gravity. by just taking the mass of the star and the periodicity we calculate its mass to a relatively small degree of error.

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568613)

If all you had was the central body's mass and the periodicity, you could calculate the distance between them, but not the mass of a smaller orbiting body. With a transit based detection, you can get the radius of the planet and estimate the mass from assuming a density. Or if you combine transit with radial Doppler observation you can get the mass, as together you can pin down the movement of the star, and the inclination (without the latter, radial Doppler shift alone only gives a lower bound on mass).

If you had a system with multiple planets, you might get some rough estimates on masses if you knew the distance from the star and orbital periods. But the reason we can pin down solar system planet's masses so well is because we can observe their location at nearly all points in their orbit to great precision, and can see stuff like the precession of orbits. Just having transit times isn't going to give you anywhere near that kind of information to work with.

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569081)

If you had a system with multiple planets, you might get some rough estimates on masses if you knew the distance from the star and orbital periods. But the reason we can pin down solar system planet's masses so well is because we can observe their location at nearly all points in their orbit to great precision, and can see stuff like the precession of orbits. Just having transit times isn't going to give you anywhere near that kind of information to work with.

I would give astrophysicists a whole lot more credit for really understanding Newton's laws of motion or even General Relativity so far as how it applies to the motion of stars and planets. The information you can obtain from the stellar data coming from Kepler is a bit more involved than just transit times, and you can tell quite a bit in terms of the masses of other planets if you notice that some planet is "early" or "late" achieving a transit across the parent star. There is a suggestion that "moons (like the Earth's Moon) might even be detectable using the methods they are using right now.... which would make estimating planetary mass to be trivial by comparison.

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (2)

mendelrat (2490762) | more than 2 years ago | (#39572335)

Kepler observes transits of planets. For simplicity's sake, let's just talk about one planet. As the planet passes in front of the star, the shape of the light curve tells you the ratio of the radii of the planet and the star, and some good constraints on the inclination of the system; that's it. If you make some assumptions about the underlying star, you can make a good estimate for the radius of the star and then get the radius of the planet. As AC points out, if you assume a density, you can get a "mass" measurement. That's like asking someone on the internet how tall they are and guessing their weight from it; it can get you an ok answer, but the real range of variation is tremendous and interesting.

In order to then get a real, measured mass of the planet, you need radial velocity measurements which tells you the ratio of the mass of the planet and the star. Again, if you know some things about the star, you can then make a good estimate for it's mass and then get the mass of the planet. NASA buys a share of time from the Keck telescopes, and the vast majority of time has been eaten up by followup observations of Kepler candidates ever since it launched. For the smallest planets, you need precision on a scale that most observatories can not provide at this time; for an Earth-like planet around an Earth-like star the radial velocity precision required is on the order of cm/s, which is fantastically hard to do. I'm not actually sure anyone has produced anything real along those lines, though there are plenty of ideas and plans.

If you're technically minded, there's a decent review from a few years ago [arxiv.org] available. If you're looking for something simpler, try this [planetary.org] .

As Teancum points out, you can detect and infer some other stuff by looking at the variations of the transit times and see if there is something else tugging on the system; that's a whole different ballgame, and David Kipping [ucl.ac.uk] is the most prominent person I can think of leading that charge.

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (1)

Spinalcold (955025) | more than 2 years ago | (#39578691)

thanks a lot, as a physics fanatic just going into university that's some stuff I will comb over. I had assumed that most of these discoveries were done by Kepler alone, not by follow up surveys but other telescopes. On second thought, that was a bit naive of me.

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39567933)

Actually, no. The goal of Kepler was to find Earth-like planets in the habitable zone and we don't have any confirmed planets of that type yet. Turns out that the stars in general are a lot noisier than our own so we need a few more years to beat down the noise.

This was good news for Kepler!

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568137)

um...what? just cause we found planets that allows us to guess what's out there is enough for you? (pardon the snark) but science needs quantifiable predictions, they don't have nearly the data they need to support different solar system forming theories. keplar can do just as much as bubble, maybe more. and if anyone says bubble's life should have been extended, look at the deep field.

In other words, I think keplar is one of the most important instruments in space, we should extend its lifeline. I don't know if its a good or a bad thing that NASA's budget has been cut so much they have to ask for donations....it could be a new revenue stream...but is dangerous cause it allows only popular research.

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (2)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568257)

Not quite.
Kepler was designed to detect earth-like planets.
It does this by detecting the dimming of the star when a planet passes in front of it.
Unfortunately, the sun has turned out to not be very typical.
Most stars are much more flickery than the sun - which we diddn't realise until Kepler.

This means that it's quite hard to pick up an earth-like planet in an earth-like orbit crossing the star.
Both larger planets - they obscure more of the star, so are more visible, and closer in - they orbit much more rapidly, so you can add up the crossings) are significantly easier to detect.

The extended mission would get Kepler about to its initial mission goals - in the face of stars turning out to be more twinkly than expected.
Detecting reliably earth-like planets around candidate stars.

It will coincidentally allow the detection of more very distant large planets, and close-in very small planets.

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (1)

AstroMatt (1594081) | more than 2 years ago | (#39574489)

"The Sun is not a solar-type star" was my favorite quote from the 1st NASA Kepler Conference held Dec 2011!

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39575177)

Mine too!
I strongly recommend watching the Kepler conference.
http://keplergo.arc.nasa.gov/ScienceKepSciCon1.shtml [nasa.gov]

This is awesome!

You need some science background - if you don't know what a harmonic is, or a power spectra - you'll be pretty lost.

But as it's a new field, I was able to keep up with about 80% of the content, even though I only have a couple of semesters of physics under my belt, and a very limited understanding of the maths.

Re:Kepler's produced great stuff (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569047)

So you could say the basic goals of Kepler have been accomplished and the rest is gravy.

It may be gravy, but it is very delicious gravy that is very difficult to get any other way. The ongoing science that Kepler is doing right now is amazing, and some of the stars they are monitoring right now need to have observations that last several years for some of the most revealing data to come forth. Some of that involves how Kepler is acquiring that data in the first place.

What is happening here is that this device is looking for transits of planets across the disc of the star being observed. For very close planets, that can be just a few days... but even here in our own Solar System we know of several planets including the one that I'm typing this message on which takes a fair bit longer for it to orbit around its "parent star". I think it would be at a minimum to in theory be able to detect our own Solar System and its planets presuming that the orientation would be appropriate for this kind of survey... which requires years of observations to detect such a transit.

Wouldn't it be amazing if we found a G-class star that had a planet with an orbital period of somewhat close to a year? That is the kind of thing we can expect to get from this expanded mission and is not something which can be said to come from the current data set.

Another issue is that because of bandwidth issues, a considerable portion of the data process needs to happen on the computer inside of Kepler... which is really where the professional astronomers come into question. They need to be able to establish the criteria for what data is sent for review and what data can simply be discarded as "lacking interest". This is an ongoing review of the data obtained, thus something which really needs continued funding. Perhaps private funding could extend the team of astronomers who could perform these kind of calculations, but ultimately it is government programs which need to sustained for a considerable period of time once a commitment is done to perform a task like this.

Moist Labia for President! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39567481)

there's a lot to be said about running The Tor Browser Bundle in an encrypted container (TrueCrypt) on a LiveCD, with the hard drive UNPLUGGED and UNUSED!

(just take the hard drives out and never use them again, USB thumb drives are cheap and can be encrypted with TrueCrypt, too, as an encrypted containter, partition, or the whole drive itself, just never use a proprietary OS like Windows or Mac OS X)

As a primer, read:

#Tor OPSEC - Operational Security - Great Resource of Information!

http://cryptome.org/0005/tor-opsec.htm [cryptome.org]

And:

#Lest We Remember: Cold Boot Attacks on Encryption Keys

https://citp.princeton.edu/research/memory/ [princeton.edu]

If the keys (TC passwords) are in my head, complex enough, and never written down...

With the amount of RAM present in new computers, I see no logical reason to use a hard drive again when Linux LiveCDs, encryption, and thumb drives are on the cheap or free.

No unsafe hardware sex, either, this means no plugging your Tor/Truecrypt thumb drive into another system, any system, except for your Tor/Truecrypt system.

Run audits on your system, verify LiveCDs, make sure your router isn't backdoored like many or maybe all of the Cisco routers. Keep up to date if you use open source firmware for your routers. Consider replacing proprietary routers with an older PC as a router with an open source OS like OpenBSD or a prerolled firewall distro.

Test your connection with remote nmap, dabble with Snort, Tripwire and other monitoring tools.

Don't use external hard drives.

RAM is your friend, always.

+5 Insightful - weeping vaginas orbit the Earth! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39567529)

there's a lot to be said about running The Tor Browser Bundle in an encrypted container (TrueCrypt) on a LiveCD, with the hard drive UNPLUGGED and UNUSED!

(just take the hard drives out and never use them again, USB thumb drives are cheap and can be encrypted with TrueCrypt, too, as an encrypted containter, partition, or the whole drive itself, just never use a proprietary OS like Windows or Mac OS X)

As a primer, read:

#Tor OPSEC - Operational Security - Great Resource of Information!

http://cryptome.org/0005/tor-opsec.htm [cryptome.org]

And:

#Lest We Remember: Cold Boot Attacks on Encryption Keys

https://citp.princeton.edu/research/memory/ [princeton.edu]

If the keys (TC passwords) are in my head, complex enough, and never written down...

With the amount of RAM present in new computers, I see no logical reason to use a hard drive again when Linux LiveCDs, encryption, and thumb drives are on the cheap or free.

No unsafe hardware sex, either, this means no plugging your Tor/Truecrypt thumb drive into another system, any system, except for your Tor/Truecrypt system.

Run audits on your system, verify LiveCDs, make sure your router isn't backdoored like many or maybe all of the Cisco routers. Keep up to date if you use open source firmware for your routers. Consider replacing proprietary routers with an older PC as a router with an open source OS like OpenBSD or a prerolled firewall distro.

Test your connection with remote nmap, dabble with Snort, Tripwire and other monitoring tools.

Don't use external hard drives.

RAM is your friend, always.

*might* be extended. (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567633)

"senior review panel recommends" does not mean "Congress has approved".

Until there's a budget passed, senior reviews mean nothing. And if Congress puts in enough mandates on NASA's plate without increasing the budget, something's gotta get cut.

If the budget's cut, are they going to give up on the JWST, or Kepler and dozens of other smaller projects that are returning results now? Are they going to grab money from earth science, heliophysics, the manned space program, or somewhere else? Maybe I'm just cynical, but I don't think it's a good time to be in astronomy at NASA.

Re:*might* be extended. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39567691)

"senior review panel recommends" does not mean "Congress has approved".

Until there's a budget passed, senior reviews mean nothing. And if Congress puts in enough mandates on NASA's plate without increasing the budget, something's gotta get cut.

If the budget's cut, are they going to give up on the JWST, or Kepler and dozens of other smaller projects that are returning results now? Are they going to grab money from earth science, heliophysics, the manned space program, or somewhere else? Maybe I'm just cynical, but I don't think it's a good time to be in astronomy at NASA.

It's not a good time to be in astronomy in general. I know, I left the field because of the few jobs available...

Re:*might* be extended. (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569099)

Until there's a budget passed, senior reviews mean nothing. And if Congress puts in enough mandates on NASA's plate without increasing the budget, something's gotta get cut.

If the budget's cut, are they going to give up on the JWST, or Kepler and dozens of other smaller projects that are returning results now?

There are just two significant programs NASA is working on: The SLS and JWST. Almost the entire rest of NASA is being cut to support both programs.... that in my own opinion neither one of these projects are ever going to actually work much less worry about getting much else accomplished.

Re:*might* be extended. (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#39570365)

Until there's a budget passed, senior reviews mean nothing

Given the experience of the last few years, I won't be holding my breath - Congress hasn't passed an actual budget, worthy of the name, on time, since 2009.

Better alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39567661)

FundaGeek

Geeks are dorks. FundaMentalist.

it just needs to work a little bit longer (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567703)

... and then we'll bring it home for doing a good job. we promise. [xkcd.com]

Mixed Blessing ! (1)

mister2au (1707664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39567707)

While there is no doubt that Kepler have delivered amazing results, it is has also effectively delivered what it was designed to do - as others have mentioned, everything from here onwards is a bonus.

But unfortunately, it also gives a strong argument not to roll-out new mission and technologies such as Coronagraph or interferometer missions.So we are stuck a great project that will continue to indirectly deduce the presence of planets and will probably continue to delay/cancel projects that can directly image exoplanets and detect planets orders of magnitude smaller - the cancelled Terrestial Planet Finder being a great example.

We are stuck at the "if" planet exist phase instead of moving on to the "what" the planets are phase ...

Nonetheless, still a lot better than cancelling Kepler altogether I suspect.

NASA is a victim of its own success (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39567889)

I mean, Voyager is still out there, sending back data. The Mars rovers outlasted all reasonable expectations. Hubble, although it required servicing, continued producing great pictures and doing great science. But really, all that legacy stuff ends up needing funds to continue to do useful work. NASA seems to be ending up in the unenviable position where they have to decide whether to spend funding on exciting new projects, or funding support for existing projects which no scientist really wants to turn off.

so much more work to be done (2)

techfun89 (2587195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568005)

This is good news that it will go on. There is more work that can be done and many more discoveries. The data it has provided will prove useful in more advanced telescopes and instruments in the near future.

:Adopt a Star... (1)

BTWR (540147) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568591)

as well as through the non-profit Pale Blue Dot project.

Ugh. I simply cannot stand star "adoption."

Re::Adopt a Star... (1)

BTWR (540147) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568723)

Actually, now that I see it in writing, adoption is ok for the cause. Sorta like Adopt-a-Highway or Adopt-a-Whale. It's support, now ownership.

Now, to be clear - it's "Name a Star" crap that they sell on the radio near Valentine's Day that I hate. And they'll even put it into an "International Registry!"

NASA (-1, Offtopic)

KaiserMax (2610419) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569843)

Wow this is awesome. Now they have enough time to look at the endless sky and find them planets. diablo 3 guide [diablo3guideinferno.com] diablo 3 gold [diablo3guideinferno.com] diablo 3 [diablo3guideinferno.com]
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