A video of recent public lecture at the SETI Institute giving an overview of the exoplanet discoveries of the Kepler space telescope: The Era of Exoplanets Has Arrived – Jeff Coughlin & Geert Barentsen (SETI Talk 2017) –
NASA’s Kepler space telescope was launched in 2009 and measured the brightness of 200,000 stars at unprecedented precision for over four years, with the prime mission goal of detecting Earth-sized exoplanets. Now after another four, Kepler’s final planet catalog is complete — over 4,000 planet candidates have been found, with 50 of them possibly rocky and capable of having liquid water. For the first time in human history, we can calculate how common planets the same size and temperature as Earth are, a key component to SETI’s goal of figuring out how common life may be in the universe.
The K2 mission began three years ago, and uses the Kepler spacecraft to stare at many different parts of the sky for 80 days at a time. A broad portion of the Astronomical community chooses what targets to observe, resulting in a wide variety of science, including supernovae, galaxies, stars, and of course exoplanets. K2 has found over 300 confirmed exoplanets and an additional 500 candidates. Some of these are likely to be habitable, and many of them are prime targets to be observed by future missions, such as the James Webb space telescope. We’ll discuss what we may learn about these worlds over the next few decades, and what future missions are being planned to find planets to which our descendants may one day travel.