During the checkout phase scientists have collected data to characterize the imaging performance as well as the noise level in the measurement electronics. The scientists have constructed the list of targets for the start of the planet search, and this information has been loaded onto the spacecraft.
If Kepler got into a staring contest, it would win, said James Fanson, Kepler project manager at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The spacecraft is ready to stare intently at the same stars for several years so that it can precisely measure the slightest changes in their brightness caused by planets. Kepler will hunt for planets by looking for periodic dips in the brightness of stars events that occur when orbiting planets cross in front of their stars and partially block the light.
The missions first finds are expected to be large, gas planets situated close to their stars. Such discoveries could be announced as early as next year.
Below the fold: guess what those sun-spots really are! Hint, the larger one is what it looks like. The smaller one is where it’s been lately.