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Kepler Mission Research Paper Honored by Thomson Reuters
David Koch accepting his Ames Honor Award. Dr. David Koch is shown accepting an honor award for the Kepler team from Lewis S. G. Braxton, III, NASA Ames’ deputy center director.
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A Kepler Mission research paper written to serve as “the standard reference for the mission,” has been determined by Thomson Reuters Essential Science Indicators (SM) to be the most-cited paper in the Space Science Emerging Research Front for October 2010.

Authored by David Koch, Kepler Mission deputy principal investigator, along with a host of co-authors, “Kepler Mission Design, Realized Photometric Performance, and Early Science” provides an overview of the mission designed to find Earth-size planets in the habitable zone (where liquid water could exist) of solar-like stars.

The selection is being announced Oct. 1, 2010 on the Thomson Reuters web site:

Jennifer Minnick, editor of Essential Science Indicators on the Thomson Reuters website, said the paper was honored as a Highly Cited Paper, signifying that it is in the top one percent of the research papers published in the past 10 years, from Jan. 1, 2000 to June 30, 2010. Essential Science Indicators is a comprehensive compilation of science performance statistics and science trends data based on journal article publication counts and citation data from the Thomson Reuters database of more than 11,000 journals throughout the world.

“Your paper is part of a Research Front that is appearing in Essential Science Indicators for the first time; your paper is, in fact, the most cited paper in the Front,” Minnick wrote to Koch informing him of the determination to be featured in Essential Science Indicators. She also noted that the research paper also is a “Hot Paper,” meaning that it’s receiving citations relatively quickly after its publication, compared to other papers in its field.

“Given the variety of ways this paper is popping up in our database, I’m sure we’re going to be seeing a lot of Kepler-related papers in the months to come,” Minnick wrote.

In comments scheduled for publication Oct. 1 on the website, Koch noted that the Kepler Mission “has become the touchstone against which planet detection is measured,” and that the research paper “is intended to be a standard reference for the mission, both as an introduction to its design, as well as a source of key parameters for those who are interested in analyzing the interpreting the results.”

Koch noted that the mission is “truly a team effort” involving a highly integrated team of scientists, engineers, programmers and managers from NASA, industry and academia.

Based on its first 43 days of operation, Koch said the mission’s use of photometry to measure transits, or the slight dimming caused by stars passing in front of other stars, has been quite successful and bodes well for future discoveries by Kepler.

“We expect to determine the frequency of exoplanets, especially Earth-size planets and how this varies with stellar parameters, including binary stars, orbital parameters, planetary size and the multiplicity of planets in a system,” Koch said. “These results will lead to a better understanding of planet formation theory and how our solar system came to have its current properties. These results will also be used to guide the development of future missions to detect and measure the composition of exoplanet atmospheres,” Koch added.

In addition, Koch predicted that the Kepler mission will help answer some basic questions about the universe.

“For millennia, we humans have been pondering the question: “Are there other worlds like ours?” The results from Kepler will not be able to identify inhabited worlds - planets with life, but will answer the question as to whether Earth-size planets are common or rare in the habitable zone of other stars. Even a null result would be significant, implying our having to rethink our place in the universe.”