Kepler's Year-Three Transit Census
When: April 30, 2012 11AM PDT
Humankind’s speculation about the existence of other worlds like our own turned into a veritable quest with the launch of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft in March 2009. The mission is designed to survey a slice of the Milky Way Galaxy to identify planets via transit photometry. The last year of science operation has been a year of milestones in terms of exoplanet characterization: rocky, Earth-size, circumbinary, Habitable Zone, and even invisible planets have made headlines. However, the real work lies in the large sample statistics of the catalogs of viable planet candidates — statistics that will drive us toward a determination of eta-earth. The Kepler team recently released its third catalog, consisting of 2,321 viable candidates associated with 1,790 stars. Dr. Batalha will describe some of the milestone discoveries that have marked the last year, the make-up of the new catalog, and the strategies moving forward, especially with regards to the recent decision by NASA HQ to support a four year extended mission.