Dear Planet Hunters:
I’m writing to congratulate you on your wonderful discovery of some unique new planet candidates. I began designing and working on the idea of a space-based transit mission in the early 1980’s so that we could determine whether Earths were frequent or rare in our galaxy. The project encountered many obstacles, but the Kepler team overcame each of them and celebrated the Mission launch in March 2009! It is exciting to see the bounty of planets that Kepler has discovered and it is especially gratifying that all of you have been willing to contribute so many hours of your time to help us discover new planets. I understand that collectively, your contribution amounts to more than 50 years of “human processing time.” We now stand at the threshold of detecting planets in wider orbits; planets that might be habitable worlds or might have moons that are habitable. Transits around these more distant planets will be different than many of the transiting planets that you’ve discovered so far – these planets will have transits that are longer in duration than the transits of close-in planets, but they will be more difficult to find because they will occur less frequently. I hope that you will redouble your efforts to find these rare but important long period planets. Good hunting. The Kepler team really appreciates your help!
Bill Borucki, Science Principal Investigator for the Kepler Mission