Happy B-day PlanetHunters!

It’s hard to believe that the first year has flown by and I would like to thank you and congratulate you on your many successes!  You may not realize it, but you are becoming famous among professional astronomers who appreciate the power of networked citizen scientists.  The total time that you all spent collectively analyzing light curves in the past year adds up to more than 100 years!

In the last year we’ve seen:

  1. improvements in the usability of the site

  2. growth in the number of users:  there are now more than 70,000 PlanetHunters!

  3. increases in the data content: from 1 month to 4 months of light curve data

  4. publication of one paper with PlanetHunters users as co-authors – the Kepler computer algorithms are good, but you are discovering planets that the computers miss.

There are some big changes ahead.  NASA and the Kepler team will be accelerating the release of data into the public archives. By this time next year, we expect that the length of the time series light curves on the PlanetHunters site will more than quadruple.  At this point will will be receiving the data almost real-time!

I would also like to thank the Kepler team. The Kepler spacecraft was launched in March 2009 and although the nominal mission ends in 2012, the spacecraft will continue to beam data back to Earth until 2015. However, financial pressures have already resulted in cuts to the Kepler science team. It’s not clear that anyone will be left after next year to receive the messages that Kepler is sending back about planets in Earth-like orbits. Whatever happens, the Kepler team has profoundly changed our understanding of the Universe and I know that I speak for the more than 70,000 PlanetHunters in thanking them for their dedication and hard work.