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July 26, 2010

Research Paper With Details on Kepler Finding Mostly Neptune and Smaller Planets

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This is a followup the article about the announcement of 700 planet candidates from the first couple of months of the space telescope Kepler's operation.

BTW: NASA Watch is pissed that the co-investigator of the Kepler Mission made the first release of Kepler results at the private TED presentation in a foreign country where only people paying thousands of dollars could attend and where the public finds out weeks later when the video gets to the internet.

Characteristics of Kepler planetary candidates based on the first data set: the majority are found to be Neptune-size and smaller (29 pages)

In the spring of 2009, the Kepler Mission commenced high-precision photometry on nearly 156,000 stars to determine the frequency and characteristics of small exoplanets, conduct a guest observer program, and obtain asteroseismic data on a wide variety of stars. On 15 June 2010 the Kepler Mission released data from the first quarter of observations. At the time of this publication, 706 stars from this first data set have exoplanet candidates with sizes from as small as that of the Earth to larger than that of Jupiter. Here we give the identity and characteristics of 306 released stars with planetary candidates. Data for the remaining 400 stars with planetary candidates will be released in February 2011. Over half the candidates on the released list have radii less than half that of Jupiter. The released stars include five possible multi-planet systems. One of these has two Neptune-size (2.3 and 2.5 Earth-radius) candidates with near-resonant periods

The following conclusions must be tempered by recognizing that many sources of bias exist in the results and that the results apply only to the released candidates.

Most candidate planets are less than half the radius of Jupiter. There is a broad maximum in the frequency of candidates with orbital period in the range from 2 to 5 days. This peak is more prominent for large candidate planets than it is for small candidates.

The observed occurrence frequencies of super-Earth-, Neptune-, Jupiter-, and super-Jupiter-size candidates in short period orbits are approximately 5x10^-4, 3x10^-3, 9x10^-4, and 2x10^-4, respectively. These values are much lower than unbiased values because of no corrections have been made for factors such as stellar size, magnitude, or variability.

The distributions of orbital period and magnitude of the candidates larger than Jupiter appear to be quite different from those of smaller candidates and might represent small stellar companions or errors in the size estimation of the dimmest stars in the Kepler planet search program.

One of the five candidate multi-planet systems has two super-Earth-size candidates (2.5 and 2.3 R⊕) with near-resonant periods of 5.96 and 12.04 days.

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