This is an artist's impression of the planet
which was discovered
by students in the Netherlands.
One of the greatest intellectual developments
of our time is the discovery of planets
around other stars. Over 300 planets so
far have been found since the early 1990s.
Techniques have involved data and images
from the great telescope observatories and
analysis with sophisticated methods developed
by scientists at the leading edge. However,
gradually it is becoming possible for students
and amateur astronomers to join in to help
with this great effort. See, for example,
which describes how three undergraduate
students discovered a large planet orbiting
a fast-rotating star.
Here are a couple of exoplanet searching
projects in which you might get involved:
This educational program gets students
involved in planetary searches via computer
Collaboratory will turn your computer
(Mac, PC, Linux, and others) into a virtual
astronomical observatory that you can
use to make and share real scientific
discoveries. You can classify stars no
one has cataloged before, use the Collaboratory
to do your own research, and maybe even
find a new planet!"
This program involves amateur astronomers
in the monitoring of a star for the slight
diminution in brightness when one of its
planets crosses between the star and our
line of sight.
" the past decade has seen the introduction
of highly affordable small telescopes
equipped with sensitive CCD detectors.
Many amateur astronomers own observatories
which, when properly configured, are capable
of reliably detecting the periodic dimming
that occurs when a close-in giant planet
passes in front of its parent star as
seen from Earth. This technique has been
used by amateurs worldwide to detect planetary
transits. In 2007, Transitsearch.org participants
discovered that the
planet HD 17156 b transits its parent
star. This planet has a three-week
orbital period, and is by far the longest-period
transiting planet discovered to date."