Making Way for Q16

Currently the light curves you are classifying on Planet Hunters come from Quarter 14 (Q14) of Kepler data. With the start of the new year, we’re close to having the classifications needed to move on to newer Kepler observations. We have a new quarter (90 days) of Kepler data processed and loaded into the website, poised and ready to start showing on the main classification interface once Q14 is complete.

We’ve decided to skip Quarter 15 for the moment and instead go on to Quarter 16 (Q16), the most recent hot off the presses data released by NASA and the Kepler team. Similar to Q14, the naming convention for Q16 starts with APHF to distinguish it from the other quarters of data already shown on Planet Hunters. You might have already noticed that the Q16 light curves are in Talk and the source pages.

Quarter 16 is the last full quarter of observations to come off of the Kepler spacecraft of the star field that Kepler had monitored for the past four years. Shortly after the start of Quarter 17, Kepler had a reaction wheel failure that has crippled the spacecraft such that it can no longer point with sufficient accuracy to look for planets as it had once done in the Kepler field. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the first full engineering test field observations of a two-wheeled Kepler mission (dubbed ‘K2’), to search for exoplanets around stars in the ecliptic plane, will begin in early March.

With any luck the NASA senior review this Spring will approve the K2 mission, and if all goes ahead there will be Kepler light curves of new stars coming for at least 2 more years , barring any unexpected spacecraft malfunctions. In the meantime we have the K2 engineering data to look forward to and the remaining primary mission Kepler data (Q1-Q17) to search through.

You can help make way for Quarter 16 by classifying light curves today at http://www.planethunters.org