Amateur astronomers invited to help confirm new worlds


Imagine a whole new world. Or how about thousands of planets?

Over the past 20 years, scientists have confirmed more than 5,000 worlds outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. As the hunt for habitable planets continues, the Research Institute for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and telescope maker Unistellar are asking citizen scientists for help in finding new exoplanets.

In the Unistellar Exoplanet Campaign, a network of amateur astronomers will use Unistellar’s eVscope or other telescopes to help confirm exoplanet candidates by NASA’s TESS spacecraft, which stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.

Think of it as a planetary fact check. Unistellar calls members of the network “Exo planeteers”.


NASA’s TESS spacecraft finds exoplanet candidates by searching for “blinking” stars. When a planet passes in front of its star, TESS and NASA’s Kepler spacecraft see fading light in front of the star, indicating a possible exoplanet. Over 5,100 exoplanets have been confirmed using this method, but thousands more exist.

Once TESS has identified a potential candidate planet, there is still a lot of work to do before it can be “confirmed” among the number of exoplanets. Ground-based telescopes on Earth can be used to follow up to see if it was a planet that caused the dip in light or if another object, such as a dust cloud or a nearby binary star, might be causing it. The source.

According to SETI, the citizen science program will focus on potential exoplanets that exhibit similar characteristics to our own gas giant planet Jupiter, known as exo-Jupiters.

Recently, 20 network astronomers helped confirm a TESS exoplanet candidate named TOI 1812.01, located more than 563 light-years from Earth.


“Observing exoplanets like TOI 1812.01 as they pass through or transit through their host stars is a crucial part of confirming their nature as genuine planets and ensuring our ability to study these planetary systems in the future,” said Paul Dalba. , researcher at the SETI Institute. said in a statement. “The specific properties of this planet, namely its long orbit and long transit time, place it in a category where globally coordinated citizen science like the Unistellar Network can be extremely effective.”

New exoplanet candidates will be added to the Unistellar website here, where there are instructions on how to observe the transit and share data with the network. Participants can use the Unistellar app to upload their sighting data from anywhere in the world.

SETI and Unistellar say this is an opportunity for anyone to contribute to the hunt for exoplanets, even young students.

NASA currently has nearly 9,000 candidate exoplanets, including thousands of multiplanetary systems. The growing field of exoplanets is challenging and exciting as some of these worlds have Earth-like characteristics. Follow-up observations by the James Webb Space Telescope or WFIRST could help confirm whether these worlds potentially host life.

The space agency recently put sound on all the exoplanets it found.

NASA has selected sounds for all 5,000 confirmed exoplanets, each represented by musical notes played over decades of discovery.


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