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NASA Senior Review Favors Kepler

For those of us who care about exoplanets, the last few months have been tense.  The Kepler Space Telescope, discoverer of over 2000 planet candidates (see this and this), including a handful that are smaller than Earth and another handful in the so-called habitable zone, is coming to the end of its nominal mission lifetime this November.  In a panel last month (see this), the Senior Review Committee heard from science teams about the progress of Kepler and other NASA-funded space missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope.  The Senior Reivew Committee just published a review that evaluates and ranks the various missions and recommends which missions should be extended and for how long.

Fortunately for planets, NASA ranked Kepler first among its Discovery-Class ($10-$15 million/year) missions.  ”The Kepler mission is an outstanding success,” writes the Senior Review Committee.  The Committee recommends that NASA extend the Kepler mission until 2016, with an additional review in 2014 to re-evaluate Kepler’s progress in determining the fraction of Earth-sized planets around other stars.

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Lauren Weiss

A Planet Hunter and midnight playwright, Lauren is a graduate student at UC Berkeley. She works with Geoff Marcy to characterize exoplanets. After graduating from Harvard, Lauren received her MPhil degree from Cambridge, where she hosted an astronomy podcast called the Astropod (http://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/astropod/) in 2011. Her greatest desire for the coming era of astronomy is that we will find Yoda on another planet.

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  1. [...] This paper also pointed out the remarkable prospects for SETI observations in the age of the planned Square Kilometer Array, a gigantic radio interferometer that will be built in South Africa and Australia. With projected sensitivities below a microjansky, this instrument would probe sources far less luminous than radars and satellites, opening up a whole new regime of SETI exploration. For SKA studies, we first need a target list. Planet hunters, over to you! [...]

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