Science Analysis Support for NASA Discovery Program's Kepler Mission

Grant #: NNX11AI14A
Senior Scientist: Douglas Caldwell

In December 2001, Kepler became the 10th mission selected for flight by NASA’s Discovery Program, and the first such oriented to achieve goals under NASA’s Origins theme. The Kepler Mission seeks to determine the prevalence of Earth-size and larger planets orbiting solar-like stars in the solar neighborhood, and to characterize the stellar properties favoring the development of planetary systems. It achieves this goal through transit photometry by monitoring >100,000 main-sequence stars continuously and simultaneously for at least 3 1/2 years, to detect signatures of transiting planets in the flux time series of their host stars. The Kepler Mission successfully completed launch and commissioning phases in 2009 and is now in normal science operations.

This proposal seeks to support the science processing and analysis of the Kepler Mission data, specifically, the proposal requests support for members of the Science Office throughout the entire lifecycle of the mission that ends in November 2013. The work includes: 1) analyzing data obtained during flight operations, 2) monitoring the health, status, and performance of the Kepler photometer 2) interpreting the results from the Science Processing Pipeline, 3) prototyping upgrades to the science processing pipeline, 4) modeling planet candidates identified by the pipeline, 5) operating and improving the Kepler Science Analysis System used for tracking candidates, 6) evaluating candidates to prioritize follow-up resources, 7) ensuring the quality and reliability of the science data archive, and 8) serving on the Kepler Science Council –the panel that decides on the scientific direction for the Kepler Mission.