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Aldrich Member Joins Hubble Telescope Exoplanet Search

A collaborative effort of professional and amateur astronomers (Pro/Am) is taking place in 2016 between a world-wide network of amateur astronomers and a Hubble Space Telescope (HST) science team. This collaboration will supplement an HST near-infrared spectroscopy survey of 15 exoplanets with ground-based observations in the visible range. The purpose of the Hubble survey is to characterize the atmosphere of the target planets. The purpose of the Pro/Am ground-based observations is to develop light curves in the visible spectrum of the same planetary transits that HST will be observing in order to: Help better refine the ephemeris of the subject planets, and determine any unusual activity such as star spots or flares on the planet’s host star. In addition to the science contributions to the HST exoplanet survey, this collaboration will provide the framework for future such collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers.

Kevin Boucher, a member of Aldrich Astronomical Society, has been accepted to join this Pro/Am effort. As explained above the study involves amateurs taking pictures of HST exoplanet targets, and then subsequently plotting the stars intensity over the image frames taken using comparative photometry. Below is a sample graph showing how information about an exoplanet can be deduced by measuring the distance and depth of the plotted curve.

Exoplanet transit graph

 

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