June 15, 2010

On Kepler Data and Beyond

It's almost a dream come true. For so many months, I've been wishing to take a look at actual Kepler data, and I often tweeted how Citizen Science could help analyze exoplanet data. And now that moment is close at hand!
For starters, when you look into this arXiv paper you'll see some data on 306 of the 706 exoplanet candidates.
Also, an important tidbit is that the paper lists 5 multi-planetary transiting systems. If any one among them is confirmed, then it will be the first case of a transiting multi-planet system known.
I was patiently monitoring the MAST website where the promised new data set can be downloaded from, but it didn't come as of yet. In my boredom, I just downloaded the FITS file of Kepler-4, hoping to practice with it before handling the exciting new data.
When I finally got hold of the FITS files via FTP from the MAST website, my initial reaction was: "So now I have the data! But What Next?!"
It was a sudden realization: Yes it is very good that the exoplanet data is being shared to the public, but now we need tutorials on how to analyze those data. Suddenly, I am now wishing that Scientists and Astronomers would post how-to's and tutorials on how to analyze FITS data to find planets! And I am hopeful, that day will come!
For now, I scrambled my way in the dark on finding the right software to be able to view and edit FITS files. Once I found the excellent "FV", I played with the data set and it felt nice seeing regular dips in the curve. So I am thankful for all the people responsible for giving us this chance to see actual scientific data.
Looking at all this, I realized that we are now at a threshold moment where ordinary people can do Science. This is definitely the beginning of a new era of Scientific Discovery. And I say, it's amazing! I can't wait to see what's beyond!!!

Abstract: http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/1006.2799 
PDF (Direct Link) http://lanl.arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1006/1006.2799.pdf