Looking for Exoplanets From Your Home
When a planet passes in front of its host star, it blocks a small amount of the star’s light. Detecting these so-called transits is largely a matter of patience, pointing a telescope at the star to catch the dip in starlight when it happens. This kind of task is easily performed by automatic robotic telescopes, which don’t require an operator.
That’s the basis for the DIY Planet Search. The MicroObservatory telescopes, located at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO) in Arizona, are designed to be controlled remotely through a simple web browser interface from anywhere in the world. DIY Planet Search participants sign up through the website, learn how to control the telescopes, then use them to measure exoplanet transits. The data they collect is shared through the network. The website also helps users describe their observations to understand what kind of planets they see, and how they fit into the emerging picture of exoplanet systems in our galaxy.
The DIY Planet Search is a public outreach project of the CfA’s Science Education Department. To learn more or schedule your first exoplanet telescope observations for analysis, visit the DIY Planet Search website.