Science Analysis Support for NASA Discovery Program's Kepler Extended Mission

Grant #: NNX13AD01A
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 150,000 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 has been carrying out normal science operations since then. It is now nearing the end of its 3.5-year baseline mission. In April 2012 NASA’s Senior Review panel recommended that Kepler be given a 4-year Extended Mission with a charge to continue science operations while increasing community involvement in observations, data analysis, and data interpretation. This proposal requests support for members of the Science Office to support the science operations, data processing, and data analysis for the Kepler Extended Mission, which ends in September 2016. 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) generating and vetting potential planet candidate lists and delivering them to the Exoplanet Archive, 6) evaluating candidates to support the communities’ follow-up observations, 7) ensuring the quality and reliability of the science data archive, and 8) serving on the Kepler Executive Council –the panel that decides on the scientific direction for Kepler in the Extended Mission.