Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Amateur Astronomers Use Microlensing to Find Exo-Planets

Amateurs Help Discover Multiple-Planet System

Amateur astronomers perform a crucial role in detecting exoplanets by a technique called microlensing, including the most recent discovery of a multiple-planet system.

Microlensing planet
Microlensing is ideal for finding planets orbiting outside the snow line. This artist's concept shows the first planet discovered via microlensing, a Jupiter-mass planet orbiting a red dwarf star at least 10,000 light-years away from the Sun.
NASA / JPL-Caltech.
Earlier this month the Kepler mission announced yet another bevy of new exoplanet candidates, their list now stretching 2,740 candidates long. But Kepler’s not the only planet-hunter on the scene. A less splashy study reported in January 10th’s Astrophysical Journal heralded the second multiple-planet system discovered by microlensing, a technique that makes good use of amateur astronomers’ skills and dedicated telescope time.

To find a planet by microlensing, planet-hunters closely monitor millions of stars in the Milky Way’s busy bulge. When a foreground object, usually a star, passes between, it acts as a lens, momentarily magnifying the light from the background star. If the lens is a simple foreground star, the background star brightens and fades in a characteristic pattern, but a planet orbiting the foreground star will add a secondary spike. Only amateurs can dedicate near-continuous coverage to capture the light curve’s details.

More - Link >>> http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/Amateurs-Help-Discover-Second-Multiple-Planet-System-188844821.html

Source: Sky and Telescope Magazine.

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