Newly added to the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes at Baltimore’s Space Telescope Science Institute is 12 more months of data from NASA’s Kepler mission, bringing the total amount to 16 terabytes. Formerly available only to the science team and other specific groups, the archive can now be accessed through the Planet Hunters site, which provides a tutorial on how to view the data. So far Kepler has discovered 77 confirmed planets and over 2,300 planet candidates, but these may be a mere fraction of what’s actually contained in the archive.
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What’s the Big Idea?
The amount of data that’s come from Kepler since its 2009 launch is too great for astronomers to analyze quickly, so by making the information public, they are encouraging volunteer scientists and observers to help do the work for them. So far it’s working: Users have perused over 14 million observations, and only last week they discovered a planet in a quadruple-star system. In addition to Kepler data, MAST contains observations from 15 other NASA space astronomy projects, including the Hubble Space Telescope.