A few days ago, NASA announced the end of Kepler’s data collection. This is not the end of the NASA Kepler mission since there is still a significant amount of data to be analyzed, but an exciting phase of the mission, the beginning of a new era for the new field of research called “exoplanetary science”, or the search and characterization of extra-solar planets and life they could harbor.
Kepler was NASA’s first mission dedicated to the search for planets around other stars, called exoplanets. The first exoplanet was discovered just 20 years prior to launch, and only a few hundred more were discovered in that time, with most of them inhabitable and more similar to gas giants like Jupiter than Earth. In the nearly ten years since Kepler’s launch, data from the spacecraft has resulted in the detection of thousands of exoplanets, with a multitude of them the size of Earth or smaller, and many of them at the right distance from their star to possibly support life. Thanks to data from Kepler we now have greater understanding of two terms of the Drake Equation that had eluded us for fifty-seven years --- we now know there are even more planets than stars in our galaxy and that a significant number of them could have the right conditions to be habitable.
Thanks to Kepler, we know that Earth is not alone. The odds of humanity not being alone in the cosmos seem high. But there are still a lot of big terms in that simple little Drake Equation to figure out. The search will continue with new space telescopes like TESS, and future generation of large space telescopes like JWST.
We invited Natalie Batalha, Professor at U.C. Santa Cruz, and Doug Caldwell, Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute to discuss the state of the search for exoplanets. What did we learn from the Kepler mission? What are the most exotic planetary systems discovered so far? What are the chances of finding extraterrestrial life in the next decade using new telescopes? These are the questions that will be addressed during our special SETI Talk on the end of the Kepler spacecraft on November 13 at 7pm at SRI International, Menlo Park, CA. Join us for a special tribute to the Kepler spacecraft.
Advanced registration recommended
Editor's Note: Due to the recent announcement concerning the end of the Kepler Space Telescope mission, this talk replaces the one originally scheduled for this date.
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