AAS 204th Meeting, June 2004
Session 35 Professional-Amateur Collaboration for Enhanced Research
Topical Session, Tuesday, June 1, 2004, 8:30-10:00am, 10:45am-12:30pm, 710/712

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[35.10] Tranistsearch: A Collaboration with Amateur Astronomers to Discover Transiting Extrasolar Planets

T.P. Castellano (NASA Ames Research Center)

The discovery of more than 100 planets around nearby solar-like stars that surpass Jupiter in size yet orbit their stars more quickly than Mercury has heralded a new era in astronomy. These enigmatic ``Hot-Jupiters" are large enough and close enough to their parent stars that their ``transits" can be captured by astronomers equipped with a small computer controlled telescope and a quality electronic CCD camera. The first known transiting extrasolar planet HD 209458b, in the constellation Pegasus, has been the subject of hundreds of scientific papers since its discovery in 1999. The transit of 8th magnitude HD 209458 has been observed by at least a dozen non-professional astronomers using telescopes as small as 4 inches in aperture. Using equipment already in hand, and armed with target lists, transit time predictions, observing techniques and software procedures developed by the transitsearch, collaboration non-professional astronomers can contribute significantly to the study of extrasolar planets by carefully measuring the brightness of stars with known Hot-Jupiters. In this way, amateur astronomers may resume, after a two century interruption, the tradition of planetary discoveries begun with William Herschel's 1787 discovery of the ``solar" planet Uranus.

To date, transitsearch has amassed more than 50 interested observers in 10 states and 12 countries and provided research experience for undergraduate and graduate students from California, Washington, Michigan and North Carolina. A status report on the successes and challenges of a highly collaborative yet widely distributed project with participants of varying background and equipment levels will be discussed.

Exciting upcoming opportunities for transitsearch observers to compete for time on NASA's SOFIA aircraft as outreach partners will be discussed and plans for this summerís observing campaign to expand our network of qualified observers through additional measurements of HD 209458b and hands-on workshops will be outlined.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://www.transitsearch.org. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: tcastellano@mail.arc.nasa.gov

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