The Kepler proposal for an extended mission was approved by the NASA Senior Review of Operating Missions. The Senior Review approved 4 years of mission extension with a review of progress to occur after 2 years. The mission extension will assure that the sensitivity of the Kepler exoplanet survey reaches the original mission goal of detecting Earth analogs, those are Earth-size planets is one year orbits around solar type stars. The extended mission will also increase the number of observation targets available to Guest Observers to continue the revolutionary astrophysical observations made possible by Kepler.
Planning for the mission extension is progressing and Kepler will shift from its nominal mission to the extended mission operations after September of this year. By that time all processed mission data will have become public. Subsequent Kepler data will be come public after processing is complete with no proprietary period.
Planetary candidate discoveries and planet confirmations continue to mount. Well over 3000 Kepler Objects of Interest (KOIs) are now being followed up so the next publication of the Kepler planet candidate list will substantially supplement the 2321 planet candidates published in February. The number of confirmed Kepler planets now stands at 74, including 11 planets confirmed by the community.
Kepler continues to operate normally in its 13th quarter of data collection. Quarter 13 will end and quarter 14 start on June 28. The Kepler team continues to monitor increased solar activity as our sun is exhibiting an increase in solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME). Kepler now has experienced several significant CME events. The team is pleased to report the spacecraft did not experience any major anomaly. However, the CMEs did impact the quality of the science data collected during the events. The team has chosen to disregard the data collected during these CMEs resulting in a modest loss of several days of data. The long-term impact on the spacecraft and its detectors is still under investigation, but appears to be small and non-threatening to overall mission success.
Cycle 4 of the Kepler Guest Observer Program has approved 50 programs. Guest Observations will begin in Jun with quarter 14.