Kepler: Pushing a Rock Uphill & Watching It Roll Down – Bill Borucki

Bill Borucki

Bill Borucki, principal investigator of NASA’s Kepler mission, explained at the Carl Sagan Institute inauguration how his mission has found thousands of planets and how every star in our universe is likely to have at least one planet. “Earth-sized planets are very common,” Borucki said.

Biography: William Borucki is a space scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He received a MSc in physics from the University of Wisconsin in 1962 and then moved to NASA Ames where he first worked on the development of the heat shield for the Apollo Mission in the Hypersonic Free Flight Branch. After the successful Moon landings, he transferred to the Theoretical Studies Branch where he investigated lightning activity in planetary atmospheres and developed mathematical models to predict the effects of nitric oxides and chlorofluoromethanes on the Earth’s ozone layer. In 1984, he began advocating the development of a space mission that could detect Earth-size planets and determine the frequency of Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of Sun-like stars. In the succeeding years he developed the techniques required to find such small planets and showed that the technology and analysis techniques were sufficiently mature to proceed to flight status. Currently he is the Science Principal Investigator for the Kepler Mission that is designed to determine the frequency of terrestrial planets orbiting in and near the habitable zones of other stars. The Mission uses transit photometry to monitor over 170,000 stars, was launched on March 6, 2009, completed its data acquisition phase in 2013, and is now in the data analysis phase. Based on the first four years of observations, over 1000 planets have been confirmed and an additional 3200 planetary candidates await confirmation.

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