Exploring Kepler's library


19 Responses to “Exploring Kepler's library”

  1. Anonymous says:

    That version of “The Flight of the Bumblebee” sounds really nice on marimba too.

  2. gramiq says:

    The one thing that I would like to know about all of these worlds is the “reverse look.”

    That is, if we were on a planet in, say, the KOI 157 system, looking back at the sun with Kepler-style eyes, what would we see?

    Would we be able to detect Earth, Mars, Venus? Or would we be limited to the larger gas giants? Or are they even too far from the sun to cause a detectable wobble.

    If we were there, could we see us?

    • Meng Bomin says:

      As Lee Billings suggested, observers of our solar system would only be able to detect its planets with a Kepler-like method if they were in line with the plane of our solar system. So, given that Kepler’s own field of view is far from the ecliptic and thus does not intersect with the ecliptic plane (the plane of Earth’s orbit) and that the other planets have orbital planes very similar to Earth’s, I would say that our solar system would be undetectable to astronomers in the KOI 157 system looking in the direction of our sun with a Kepler-like instrument.

      There are other techniques that they could use, but planetary transits would not work.

    • Lee Billings says:

      Re: the reverse look from KOI 157… It depends chiefly on the mutual orientations of planetary orbits in each system. So, we can see the KOI 157 planets because from our perspective in the sky they are all more or less edge-on to their star. Someone on one of those worlds could see ours in the exact same way if some of the planets in our solar system transit in that particular line-of-sight.

      I’m not certain what the mutual orientations actually are in the case of KOI 157, but assuming they were both exactly edge-on, the observers on KOI 157 probably would still have trouble detecting all of the planets in our solar system using a twin of the Kepler mission. The chances of any planet transiting diminishes as its orbital separation increases and its angular size decreases…

      • Tatsuma says:

        I would have thought that all of the new found systems would ALL be pretty much in the same line as ours…that is in line with the overall general rotation of the galaxy. Centrifugal effect and all that…..Is this not the case?

        • Anonymous says:

          Nope. Star formation is much more chaotic than the small contribution from galactic rotation, and systems form at nearly every angle.

        • Lee Billings says:

          I bet an actual astronomer would have a better answer, but here’s mine: I don’t think so, no. The large-scale rotation of the galaxy is pretty disconnected from the rotation of individual stars. I am *guessing* that the orbital inclinations of exoplanetary systems would be pretty randomly distributed with regard to the plane of the galaxy. But it would be really interesting if there were a correlation like that…

  3. Mantissa128 says:

    What an incredible time to be alive, to see science fiction becoming reality in the daily news.

  4. Felloslav says:

    “…and only represents the first four months of data from a 3.5-year mission.”

    How big is the chance that there’ll be more data releases of this size? I would imagine that the first planets discovered are also the easiest to discover, and that it will be increasingly difficult to detect more after that.

    • MrScience says:

      The chance of more releases this size are fairly high, though you’re right that it’ll slow down exponentially (given a consistent press release cycle, not an assumption I’d necessarily make).

      Right now we’re seeing the huge, fast-moving planets. Their ‘years’ are measured in our days or months. Given the requirement to see at least two transits to be confident that there’s something there, it would take two years to monitor Earth’s own transit from a distant star. As the time it takes to measure the next set of orbits doubles, the frequency of discoveries will likely halve.

      Keep in mind, though: We’re able to make out the difference between day & night on some of these planets, and even measure their atmosphere! Kepler is very sensitive.

  5. poj says:

    Any idea what fraction of stars Kepler looked at have observable planets? Any idea how to extrapolate that to what fraction have planets we could observe if the star’s planets’ ecliptic plane were oriented properly?

    I would imagine we are only seeing planets around only a very small fraction of those stars that have planets, due to constraints of the geometry for detection.

    • Lee Billings says:

      It’s true, Kepler is only skimming a vanishing fraction of the planets that exist around the stars in its field-of-view. I wouldn’t have been so certain when I began this guest-blog stint, but the latest data release makes me confident: Transits are rare, but planets are common as dirt.

  6. Chloramphenicol says:

    This whole project is truly fascinating and awe-inspiring, but I’m forced to wonder how ‘old’ the data we’re looking at is. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t most of these stars so vastly far away that what we’re seeing is data from centuries or millennia ago? Even if we could get live data from a suitable planet *right now* what are the odds that, even if there is or was human-like life there, that it’d already be long gone… Truly the mind boggles.

    • JoshuaZ says:

      Almost all the planets discovered are within 5000 years, and most are within 2500 light years. But a substantial number are much closer. 16 Cygni B for example is only about 75 light years away, and there are a substantial number of candidates within 200 light years. I think 16 Cygni B is the closest confirmed planet. I don’t know what the closest unconfirmed candidates are, they might be closer but I don’t think so. Also, very few of the close to Earth-like planets are very close. Kepler-10b which is pretty rocky is around 560 light years away (also it is way too close to be in the habitable zone). Right now though the data isn’t very well organized (or if it is, I don’t know where that is in an easily searchable form) , so I might be missing important closer stuff.

  7. fxq says:

    I wonder what the Sol system would look like if Kepler was at Alpha Centauri, Barnard’s star, Tau Ceti, etc?

  8. imag says:

    I love the discussion. I love the video. I love these posts.

    I do think that visualization would be seriously improved by including our solar system as a reference for size and speed.

  9. Sam125 says:

    One step closer to finding a colonizable planet. :)

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