The general scientific goal of the Kepler mission is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems, with special emphasis on determining the frequency of Earth-size planets in the HZ of solar-like stars. This is achieved by surveying a large sample of stars to:
• Determine the frequency of terrestrial-size (R®) and larger planets in or near the habitable zone of a wide variety of spectral types of stars;
• Determine the distributions of sizes and orbital semi-major axes of these planets;
• Estimate the frequency of planets orbiting multiple-star systems;
• Determine the distributions of semi-major axis, eccentricity, albedo, size, mass, and density of short period giant planets;
• Identify additional members of each photometrically-discovered planetary system using complementary techniques; and
• Determine the properties of those stars that harbor planetary systems.
The Kepler mission supports follow-on missions such as SIM, TPF, and the Darwin mission by finding the association between the frequency and characteristics of terrestrial planets and stellar type and by determining the distributions of planetary size and orbital semi-major axis. Since the Kepler field-of-view (FOV) is along a galactic arm at the same galactocentric distance as the Sun, the stellar population sampled with Kepler is indistinguishable from the immediate solar neighborhood. Thus, the Kepler results should provide pertinent information for selecting the most promising targets for future missions.
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