Kepler Science

    An image by Carter Roberts of the Eastbay Astronomical Society in Oakland, CA, showing the Milky Way region of the sky where the Kepler spacecraft/photometer will be pointing. Each rectangle indicates the specific region of the sky covered by each CCD element of the Kepler photometer. There are a total of 42 CCD elements in pairs, each pair comprising a square. Image above: Kepler's targeted star field. Credit: Carter Roberts of the Eastbay Astronomical Society

    Kepler's Field Of View In Targeted Star FieldImage above: Kepler's targeted star field graphic. Credit: NASA

    The scientific objective of the Kepler Mission is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems. This is achieved by surveying a large sample of stars to:
    • Determine the percentage of terrestrial and larger planets that are in or near the habitable zone of a wide variety of stars
    • Determine the distribution of sizes and shapes of the orbits of these planets
    • Estimate how many planets there are in multiple-star systems
    • Determine the variety of orbit sizes and planet reflectivities, sizes, masses and densities of short-period giant planets
    • Identify additional members of each discovered planetary system using other techniques
    • Determine the properties of those stars that harbor planetary systems.

    Target Field of View

    Since transits only last a fraction of a day, all the stars must be monitored continuously, that is, their brightnesses must be measured at least once every few hours. The ability to continuously view the stars being monitored dictates that the field of view (FOV) must never be blocked at any time during the year. Therefore, to avoid the Sun the FOV must be out of the ecliptic plane. The secondary requirement is that the FOV have the largest possible number of stars. This leads to the selection of a region in the Cygnus and Lyra constellations of our Galaxy as shown.

    Additional Links
    › Kepler Science Basics→
    › Kepler Discoveries→