Kepler Spacecraft and Instrument

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Spacecraft and Instrument

Photometer | Spacecraft | Mission Design

The Kepler photometer is a simple single purpose instrument. It is basically a Schmidt telescope design with a 0.95-meter aperture and a 105 square deg (about 12 degree diameter) field-of-view (FOV). It is pointed at and records data from just a single group of stars for the three and one-half or more year duration of the mission.

Kepler Photometer Focal Plane Assembly. Credit: Ball AerospaceThe photometer is composed of just one "instrument," which is, an array of 42 CCDs (charge coupled devices). Each 50x25 mm CCD has 2200x1024 pixels. The CCDs are read out every three seconds to prevent saturation. Only the information from the CCD pixels where there are stars brighter than about R magnitude of 16 is recorded. (The CCDs are not used to take pictures. The images are intentionally defocused to 10 arc seconds to improve the photometric precision.) The data are integrated for 30 minutes.

The instrument has the sensitivity to detect an Earth-size transit of an mv=12 G2V (solar-like) star at 4 sigma in 6.5 hours of integration. The instrument has a spectral bandpass from 400 nm to 850 nm. Data from the individual pixels that make up each star of the 100,000 main-sequence stars are recorded continuously and simultaneously. The data are stored on the spacecraft and transmitted to the ground about once per month.

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Page Last Updated: January 16th, 2014
Page Editor: Jerry Colen