Public Star Night – 21 June 2019 – Dustin Putnam – “Kepler Space Telescope – Search for Exoplanets”

Our speaker for this evening will be Dustin Putnam from Ball Aerospace in Boulder and the title of his talk will be “Kepler Space Telescope – Search for Exoplanets”.

Planets orbit nearly every star in the galaxy, but how did astronomers make this groundbreaking discovery? Much of the credit goes to the Kepler Space Telescope, built by Ball Aerospace and launched in March 2009. To date, Kepler has enabled the detection of over 2,600 planets around other stars using the transit method, which looks for small changes in brightness as planets swing by their stars. Exoplanet astronomy presents unique challenges, but Kepler’s stringent design has made it a successful planet-hunting machine. Not only has Kepler exposed alien planets, but it has revealed solar systems quite like ours—and the discoveries are still rolling in.

Dustin Putnam earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Iowa State University and a Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University. He has worked at Ball Aerospace as a spacecraft attitude control engineer since 2000. Dustin started on the Kepler program in 2004, focusing first on the very tight-pointing stabilization needed to find exoplanets and later mission-enhancing improvements made throughout the telescope’s operational lifetime. Dustin is also an amateur astronomer and science fiction enthusiast.

Weather permitting after the presentation, visitors will be invited to look through our large telescope at various celestial objects. Public star nights are held the third Friday of each month, except July, when we are closed for annual maintenance.

If you have any questions, please call the observatory information line at 970-613-7793 or check the LTO web site at

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