63 hot Jupiter systems from Kepler

This illustration shows the 63 hot Jupiter systems, planetary systems with Jupiter-size planet candidates in three-day orbits, and their stars as well as approximate stellar colors, all shown at the same relative scale.   Credit: Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics/J Steffen

April was a momentous time for the mission! The team received approval for a mission extension through fiscal year 2016, based on a recommendation from NASA’s 2012 Senior Review of Astrophysics Missions. In addition to Kepler, eight other missions were approved.

The extended mission will begin in October 2012. The team has been busy preparing a transition plan to carry the mission through 2016. The extended mission paradigm will be to operate with more dependence on, and service to, the astronomical community. The Kepler exoplanet survey will continue, but, to reduce mission cost, the project will support follow-up observation and analysis only of planet candidates near Earth-size and then produce a reliable catalog of the near Earth-size candidates. In addition to continuing the exoplanet survey, the level of Kepler resources devoted to astrophysical studies will be substantially increased to allow much greater community participation in Kepler science. All Kepler survey data will be available to the community for analysis with no proprietary period.

Extended mission planning and implementation are progressing. Methods and infrastructure to facilitate working groups of community scientists to participate both in the survey operation and analysis of survey results are being developed. The Kepler Guest Observer Office is preparing to support observations proposed by the community, as well as access to archival data. Extended mission follow-up observing plans and procedures will be completed in time for trial use in the summer 2012 observing season, before the first season of the extended mission in early 2013. All other preparations for extended mission operation will be in place and functioning by the beginning of October 2012.

On April 16, during the opening ceremony of the 28th National Space Symposium, the team was awarded the 2012 John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr., Award for Space Exploration. We are honored and humbled by this prestigious award AND this remarkable video the team at the Space Foundation produced.

The Space Foundation was founded in 1983, in part to honor the memory and accomplishments of astronaut John L. ‘Jack’ Swigert, Jr. A Colorado native, Swigert served with retired U.S. Navy Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., and Fred Haise on the legendary Apollo 13 lunar mission, which was aborted after the perilous rupture of an oxygen tank en route to the Moon. People around the world watched as NASA overcame tremendous odds to return the crew safely to Earth. The Space Foundation created the Jack Swigert Award for Space Exploration in 2004 in tribute to his enduring legacy of space exploration. The Jack Swigert Award is presented annually at the National Space Symposium.

Honored for 2012 is the NASA Kepler Mission for the discovery of 61 confirmed extrasolar planets and over 2,300 planet candidates in the first 16 months of observations from May 2009 to September 2010. Read more at:

via NASA