The K2 mission, the two-wheel operation mode of the Kepler spacecraft conducting observations in the ecliptic, officially began collecting data on May 30. The spacecraft performance has been terrific, and it has remained in fine point throughout the campaign, so far.
This first science observation run, called Campaign 1, will collect data for approximately 75 days before concluding mid-August. K2 is observing more than 12,000 target stars for transiting planets in Campaign 1, and is also observing young and old star clusters, active galactic nuclei and supernovae. In total, more than 21,000 target stars are being observed in Campaign 1.
The Kepler team has set the K2 target fields, with community input, and the scientific community proposes observation targets through the mission’s Guest Observer program. The successful proposals for Campaigns 0 and 1 are available at the Kepler Science Center website, along with their complete target lists. The details for future campaigns will be posted as soon as target management is completed. The next call for proposals for Campaigns 4 and 5 closes on Sept. 23, with an intent to propose due Aug. 8.
As we continue to learn more about the spacecraft’s performance in this operating mode, we expect to see increased performance efficiencies – more targets, less fuel, fewer data interruptions. Meanwhile, we continue to see enthusiastic community response to the observing opportunities. The future observing fields are being locked in early to allow the community time to search the fields and identify the best targets, and in some cases, do pre-campaign, ground-based observing.
To learn more about the K2 mission visit the Kepler Science Center website.
The formal Kepler mission is still in the process of finishing its data analysis. With two more releases of the data processing pipeline scheduled, we hope to improve the sensitivity to small planets in long-period orbits as we search the mission’s four-year data set. We are currently performing a complete re-processing of all Kepler data, with the intent of refreshing the Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes with a complete set of uniformly processed light curves. This represents a long-awaited milestone by the scientific community and we are eager to provide this improved data set.
To-date, the Kepler exoplanet search has produced more than 4,200 exoplanet candidates and verified 978 as planets. Visit the NASA Exoplanet Archive for details about the exoplanets and the host stars they orbit.