August 6, 2009

Yay! Kepler Works!

light curveEven though twitter was mostly down for the important announcement of the Kepler Mission, it did not dampen the excitement surrounding the update.
Kepler Works!
To prove it, the Kepler team produced a lightcurve of a previously known exoplanet, HAT-P-7 b, and found that Kepler's findings agree with previous observations of that planet. Oh, but there is so much more!
A cleaner light curve means that Kepler's data has less noise than those gathered by ground-based telescopes, which means more precision, and thus proves that Kepler is truly capable of detecting earth-sized worlds.
Most of all, Kepler's precision allowed the team to detect the atmosphere of a known gas giant planet. Based on the light curve, the trailing small dip corresponds to the occultation of HAT-P-7b--the part where the planet "hides" behind it's star. Taking this in consideration with the actual transit curve (the first major dip), the depth of the occultation and the shape and amplitude of the light curve show the planet has an atmosphere with a day-side temperature of about 4,310 degrees Fahrenheit. The occultation time compared to the main transit time also shows that the planet has a circular orbit.
All these bonus information is simply amazing! Not only does Kepler work, it works beautifully! Therefore, the Kepler Mission Team deserves a great commendation! And I'll drink to that! Yay! Kepler Works!

Links: Kepler Press Release