Our Collaborative Exploration for New planets with Small Telescopes

02/21/2019 - 3:30pm
Blazer 339
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s): 
John Kielkopf, University of Louisville
While it may seem that stars are steadily unwavering in their brightness, astronomers have known since antiquity that some of them fluctuate on their own.  Today we understand the causes: rotation, pulsations, eclipsing stellar companions, and now the occasional transiting planet.  In an international collaboration with KELT (Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope) and NASA TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey  Satellite), the University of Louisville is contributing its ground-based small telescope resources in Kentucky, Arizona, and Australia to confirm discoveries and characterize properties of these extrasolar planets and their host stars.   Our work is focused on precision measurements of stellar brightness and velocity which can be done surprisingly well with telescopes affordable by universities and dedicated citizen scientists. We have found among others one of the hottest known planets that leaves a comet-like tail as it orbits its star;  a multi-planet system where gravitational interaction keeps the orbits instep; and enormous flares on our nearest neighboring star that may endanger any chance for life on the planet in its habitable zone. 
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