Kepler Science Conference Part 4

Today’s  blog is a guest post  by fellow Planet Hunter and frequent contributor on PH Talk, Daryll (nighthawk_black)  who also attended the Kepler Science conference. This is Part 1 of a two part blog post summarizing the Kepler Science Conference sessions.

Hi Planet Hunters!

Finally off the road and home from KepSciCon! It was an absolute thrill for Tom, Kian and I to break from routine and sit in on a week of talks and presentations by so many members of the professional astronomical community who are sorting out thousands of exoplanet candidates from the Kepler data. First off a big thanks to NASA-Ames and the Kepler Team for being such gracious hosts and also for making available online all of the interesting session talk videos and other materials right away. Thanks as well to Meg Shwamb for inviting me to share some notes from this rather historic first gathering.

Kepler is continuing to pay dividends–and then some. I tried to pick out a few items from each of the session themes that seemed most relevant to staring at hundreds of light curves–this was extremely difficult as all of it was very, very interesting! On the other hand a complete and uncut edition of my cliffs from KSC looks like a bad draft for a stellar version of ‘War & Peace’. Really I think we’ve just barely scratched the surface of what the Kepler data has to offer. So many interesting things came up that aren’t inculded below I really recommend checking out some of the web archive. I suspect, that once you watch a few of the linked videos on these blogs you will end up  watching them all!

Let me tell you: there was a lot of excitement in the room when Bill Borucki took the stage Monday morning to announce  Kepler-22b to us!

Natalie Batalha  followed up with more on K-22b and other key Kepler Objects of Interest like K-11, K-16 & K-19. Meg has also done a good summary regarding the details in her blog. I won’t expand on -22b, save to note it was fun to watch that buzz grow into thousands of news stories, online articles and late night  spoofs over the five days following the bean-spilling. Whatever the final outcome on -22b’s habitability prospects, it’s good to see the public getting jazzed up about exoplanets. This is just the first of many worlds that will swell the future HZ catalog, after all!

SESSION A – KEPLER MISSION AND EXOPLANET STATISTICS.

  • Several talks out of the gates involving data from CoRoT (en français: COnvection ROtation et Transits planétaire) and their 3000+ transit detections across two fields of view in different galaztic areas (a cool detail I’d somehow missed before) I wonder what its ultimate tally will tell us about the distribution of exoplanet populations and their characteristics in different latitudes and environments of the Milky Way?
  • A lot of  impressive information from Jon Jenkins and other presenters on how the PDC-MAP (or ‘pipeline’) is ever evolving in its examination of the growing mass of data, and how the greatest value there will be tapped by allowing it to ‘chew’ over that data through maximum ‘full yield’ extended mission. Securing the full extended mission was mentioned repeatedly at the conference and is the obvious requirement to maximize advancement across multiple fields of study; a nominal mission would run through 2016 and possibly longer assuming no serious degradation of Kepler’s ability to phone home.
  • Many encouraging details about various improvements and refinements within the Kepler Input Catalog, which holds parameters for most stars hosting known or suspected exoplanets in the FOV; this s key for most estimations derived for exoplanet values of mass, radius, and other key characteristics.
  • Found in this session as well is Meg’s presentation for Planethunters.org and the two exoplanets detailed in the first PH reviewed paper. Everyone who contributed to this project since inception should be very proud of those results!
  • Excellent talk about follow up results from the infrared space-based Spitzer telescope, some of which indicate the false positive rate within the current candidate list is very low–possibly under 10%!
  • Big potential for the 747 jumbo jet-based SOFIA telescope to add to the ‘ground based’ follow up observation capability for KOI’s, as well as HUGE potential in the way of upcoming space borne observatories like TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey) and multi-band suited GAIA from the ESA. I found TESS particularly interesting because it will survey many stars in our own immediate solar neighborhood for transits!
  • This session was followed up by a lunchtime review of the possible consequences of the proprietary data period ending in second half of 2012–Meg touched on this earlier and I think we will continue to see exciting prospects for collaboration and growth within our community as we move into the New Year.

SESSION B – SUPER-EARTH AND SUB-NEPTUNE SIZE PLANETS

  • We don’t have any good analogs or even a close relative to worlds like these in our own solar system, so understanding them and understanding why we don’t have any here is of great importance.
  • Fascinating theoretical possibility of a new locales for liquid water, tucked away inside puffed up sub-Neptunes, given by Leslie Rogers.
  • Good case studies on BLENDER the super-CPU modeler which we’ve seen discussed on PH Talk before. I wasn’t aware it had assisted a majority of the confirmed Super-Earths and sub-Neptunes on the lists to date!
  • Multitude of great talks on the wild and varied potential nature of Super-Earth and sub-Neptune environments, plus brief review of differing theoretical evolutionary paths for these bodies by Geoff Marcy, Andrew Howard and many others.
  • Check also the MEarth  project w/ Courtney Dressing; this intriguing survey is hunting exoplanets around smaller stars like M-dwarfs & should produce good results on its bottom line.
  • See Jill Tarter of SETI on ‘eta-Earth’ analogs and the reactivation of the powerful Allen Array (also known as the 1 Hectare Telescope) with its epic, massive Field Of View in north-eastern California, thanks to new funding sources. Good timing!

SESSION C – MULTIPLE PLANET SYSTEMS

  • Awesome lead off presentation by Jack Lissauer: ‘Most Kepler multi-planet KOI’s are real and NOT false positives!’ More details on K-11, K-16 & K-20, amongst others included here.
  • Surely one of the best lines of the conference from David Ciardi, likening the massive flood of new Kepler data to being hit with a fire-hose full blast–or perhaps pepper spray!
  • Lot’s of good stuff about wildly different orbital eccentricities and other features found on some confirmed systems and KOI’s, many of which make our solar system look positively mundane in contrast. Also highlighted here were several new techniques being refined to deal with figuring quasi-period or variable transiting exoplanet models; some we’ve seen or discussed on PH Talk like TTV (Transit Timing Variation).
  •  I think longer period exoplanets will continue to be inferred in some systems where we already see multiple exoplanets transiting, this will probably add new questions c/t crazy range of possible configurations and packing we’ve already documented.
To be continued…
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2 responses to “Kepler Science Conference Part 4”

  1. Tom128 says :

    Daryll, you were never sitting still at the conference, always engaged with the presenters and tuned into what was going on. During the breaks you often met with the speakers and exchanged ideas. Eight hours a day were not enough as you often went to the lunch time presentations as well as the poster sessions in the evening.

    Excellent article and look forward to reading more.

  2. Debra Fischer says :

    Awesome blog post! Thanks Daryll !

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