Jeffrey Smith

Science Processing Support for the Extended Kepler Mission

In December 2001, Kepler became the 10th mission selected for flight by NASA’s Discovery Program, and the first such oriented to achieve goals under NASA’s Origins theme. The Kepler Mission seeks to determine the prevalence of Earth-size and larger planets orbiting solar-like stars in the solar neighborhood, and to characterize the stellar properties favoring the development of planetary systems. It achieves this goal through transit photometry by monitoring ~156,000 main-sequence stars continuously and simultaneously for at least 3 1/2 years, to detect signatures of transiting planets in the flux time series of their host stars. In April 2012, the NASA Astrophysics Senior Review recommended extending Kepler for an additional 4 years of science operations, through September 2016. This proposal seeks to support the operation and evolution of the science pipeline to support Kepler’s Extended Mission


Jeffrey Smith
Data Scientist
Degree/Major: 
Ph.D Physics, Cornell University
Major Awards: 

NASA Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal, 2012

NASA Ames Honor Award For Excellence in the Category of Contractor Employee, 2012 

American Physical Society California Section Luis Alvarez Award for Best Experimental Research, 2009

Ford Fellowship for Undergraduate Independent Research, 2000

Curriculum Vitae: 
Discipline: 
Data Science, Signal Processing, Physics Modeling
From bosons to planets: Searching the tiniest of inner-spaces straight up to galactic scales.

Jeff Smith in LHC tunnelDr. Smith began his academic passion in the field of Accelerator Physics. After building a cyclotron, a small particle accelerator, as an undergraduate at Knox College, Jeff matriculated at Cornell University furthering his passion for high energy particle accelerators and uncovering the inner workings of fundamental particles & the universe. His Ph.D. thesis was on the design of the International Linear Collider (ILC), a 22 mile-long electron-positron accelerator that will complement the discoveries being made at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. In order to increase the chances of creating rare particle events, the two particle beams colliding in the ILC must be very well concentrated onto an area smaller than the size of a hemoglobin molecule.  Jeff developed methods to preserve the small sizes of the beams, along with their polarization, over the full 22 mile long length of the machine. After Cornell, Jeff joined the SLAC National Accelerator Facility at Stanford University to continue his work on the ILC and also to develop upgrade hardware for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). As was demonstrated during its catastrophic failure soon after start of operation, the LHC requires sophisticated methods to protect itself from the very beams it creates. Jeff contributed to the development of a new collimation system to help ensure such failures never happen again. The new collimation system was installed in the LHC during the most recent major shutdown in 2013.

Jeff Smith on Mauna KeaAfter a successful career looking into the tiniest of inner-spaces Jeff decided to look up to the stars. Dr. Smith now develops data processing and planet detection algorithms for the Kepler and TESS Mission. Launched in March 2009, the Kepler Spacecraft has found well over 4000 potential planets and the number of confirmed planets is now approaching 1000. Eking out planet signals in the Kepler Data has proven to be a challenging and rewarding endeavor. Kepler is succeeding in detecting signals down to 20 parts-per-million — that’s equivalent to finding a 2 micron bump on a 4 inch cannonball (a human hair is 80 microns thick)! To this end a sophisticated data processing pipeline has been developed to proceed from raw Kepler pixel data to planet signals. Development continues on the detection algorithms but with the Kepler data now extant at four years, even greater pressure is placed on the detection software to find every last planet we can with the limited data set. With Kepler now hobbled with only 2 reaction wheels, a new data collection campaign has begun. Jeff is also involved in developing data processing algorithms for the new Kepler data (called K2) to help recover as much as possible the performance of the original Kepler mission. Looking toward the future, Dr. Smith is involved with adapting the Kepler science processing algorithms for use with the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satallite (TESS), a new NASA planet finding mission to be launched in the near future.

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