Kepler’s follow-up team includes astronomers who work with the Keck Telescopes in Hawaii (top), the Spitzer Space Telescope (middle), and other instruments using the doppler method of finding exoplanets (bottom).

A little help from its friends

Kepler’s follow-up observers confirm new discoveries.
January 07, 2013

More than 2,740 exoplanet candidate discoveries have made it the most prolific planet hunter in history. But even NASA’s Kepler mission needs a little help from its friends.

Enter the Kepler follow-up observation program, a consortium of astronomers dedicated to getting in-depth with the mission’s findings and verifying them to an extremely high degree of confidence. A single Kepler observation alone is often not enough to prove that the telescope has found an exoplanet, said Nick Gautier, the mission’s deputy project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., who coordinated and continues to help run Kepler’s robust follow-up program. Kepler finds exoplanets by watching for worlds that move directly between the telescope and their host stars. As they do this, they block a tiny fraction of the star’s light, an event astronomers call a “transit.”

Read more: A little help from its friends — NASA JPL.

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