I’m not an app person, but when I got an e-mail from Hanno Rein of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University suggesting that I look at a new iPhone/iPad app called “Kepler” to track the ever-increasing list of candidate exoplanets from the Kepler satellite, I decided to check it out.
I’m sure it will be getting a lot of use, especially when I want to illustrate in a lecture setting how Kepler uses transits to find and then confirm candidates planets around other stars. You can order the database in several ways, including distance from Earth and size of the planet in increasing or decreasing order. You can also restrict the search to include only planets in their stars’ habitable zones.
I was surprised to note that some candidates are roughly a third as large as Earth. Of course the list is biased towards short orbital periods because you need three transits to confirm a planet. The first dimming is a weak “maybe,” the second dimming following an earlier pattern makes it a strong candidate and predicts when the third and confirming dimming ought to occur.
Here are some links relating to Kepler’s discoveries:
My school visit talk called “The Truth About Space Aliens: What We Know and Don’t Know About Life on Other Worlds,” which is based on my middle-grade “Cool Science” book Astrobiology.
My review of Alan Boss’ recent book about Kepler, The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets.
A description of Hanno’s earlier free app Exoplanet that lets you explore the full database of confirmed exoplanets.