Monday, February 9, 2015

Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler Project Using NASA Pleiades Supercomputer

A team of 21st-century explorers working for the Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler (HEK) project, based at Harvard University, are searching for exomoons using data from NASA’s Kepler mission and the Pleiades supercomputer at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

The discovery of exomoons—moons situated beyond our own solar system—would add to the growing list of celestial objects detected by the Kepler telescope that could potentially harbor life in some form.

In the quest to find the first exomoon, HEK astronomers led by David Kipping at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have devised a unique, systematic computational approach that requires 5.2 million processor hours on Pleiades. Using their in-house LUNA light curve modeling algorithm and a massively parallel sampling algorithm called MultiNest, the project team simulates billions of possible star-planet-moon configurations and compares the results to the actual Kepler data to look for a good match. So far, the team has surveyed 56 of about 400 identified Kepler planet candidates that could have a detectable exomoon.

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