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Proceedings Paper

In-flight photometric performance of the 96Mpx focal plane array assembly for NASA's Kepler exoplanet mission
Author(s): D. Ebbets; V. Argabright; J. Stober; J. VanCleve; D. Caldwell; J. Kolodziejczak
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Paper Abstract

Kepler is NASA's first space mission dedicated to the study of exoplanets. The primary scientific goal is statistical - to estimate the frequency of planetary systems associated with sun-like stars. Kepler was launched into an Earth-trailing heliocentric "drift-away" orbit in March 2009, and is monitoring 150,000 stars. The instrument detects the faint photometric signals of transits of those systems whose orbital planes are oriented in our line-of-sight. An Earth-Sun analog will produce a transit depth of 80 parts per million (ppm), lasting for at most a few tens of hours, and repeating once per "year". The instrumentation was designed to provide photometric data with a precision of 20 parts per million in 6.5 hours for 12th magnitude stars, resulting in a signal-to-noise ratio of 4 for an Earth-Sun transit. The stability of the flight system enables the precision of the data that reveal subtle instrumental and astrophysical effects that in turn allow a deeper understanding of the performance of the hardware, to enhanced operational procedures, and to novel post-processing of the data. The data are approaching the sensitivity needed to detect transits of terrestrial planets. Intrinsic stellar variability is now the most significant component of the photometric error budget.

Paper Details

Date Published: 14 September 2011
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 8146, UV/Optical/IR Space Telescopes and Instruments: Innovative Technologies and Concepts V, 81460H (14 September 2011); doi: 10.1117/12.897443
Show Author Affiliations
D. Ebbets, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. (United States)
V. Argabright, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. (United States)
J. Stober, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. (United States)
J. VanCleve, NASA Ames Research Ctr. (United States)
D. Caldwell, NASA Ames Research Ctr. (United States)
J. Kolodziejczak, NASA Marshall Space Flight Ctr. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8146:
UV/Optical/IR Space Telescopes and Instruments: Innovative Technologies and Concepts V
Howard A. MacEwen; James B. Breckinridge, Editor(s)

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