MOFFETT FIELD, Calif., June 16 (UPI) — The U.S. space agency has released 43 days of science data gathered by the Kepler Space Observatory on more than 156,000 stars.
NASA scientists said the stars are being monitored for subtle brightness changes as part of an ongoing search for Earth-like planets outside our solar system. Astronomers will use the data to determine if orbiting planets are responsible for brightness variations in the stars.
Kepler looks for the data signatures of planets by measuring tiny decreases in the brightness of stars when planets cross in front of, or transit them, NASA said. The size of the planet can be derived from the change in the star’s brightness.
The 28-member Kepler science team also uses data from ground-based telescopes and the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes to perform follow-up observations on a specific set of 400 objects of interest, the space agency said.
“This is the most precise, nearly continuous, longest and largest data set of stellar photometry ever,” said Kepler deputy principal investigator David Koch of NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. “The results will only get better as the duration of the data set grows with time.”
Kepler will continue conducting science operations until at least November 2012, NASA said.
The new data is available at http://archive.stsci.edu/kepler/.
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