Caldwell is a Co-Investigator on the Kepler Mission, the Instrument Scientist for the Kepler Mission. He works at the Kepler Science Office on the whole instrument/detector system.
Just 20 years ago, astronomers could only speculate about whether planets were a happy commonplace in the universe, or distressingly rare. The discovery of thousands of worlds around other stars has shown that planets orbit most of the stars in our Galaxy. But how many of these planets are Earth-size, and possibly Earth-like?
Caldwell is an expert on one of the most successful schemes for finding small worlds far beyond our solar system: looking for the slight dimming of a star caused when a planet crosses between it and us. Doug is involved in a trio of transit experiments, including one running at the South Pole. While admittedly a tough environment for an observatory, this antipodal location offers long nights and high altitude, perfect conditions for finding the small dip in stellar brightness that would betray a planet. In addition, Doug is also the Instrument Scientist for NASA’s Kepler Mission, an ambitious, space borne telescope that has examined over one hundred thousand stars and found thousands of planets, many as small or smaller than Earth. Kepler's results have moved us from asking whether other Earth's are out there, to asking how can we search these Earths for atmospheres and life.