In 1995 the breakthrough announcement was made that a planet had been discovered orbiting a star in the constellation Pegasus. Prior to that time, for decades astronomers had searched in vain to confirm that planets existed around any other star besides our own Sun. Yet it was a mere five years after the first exoplanet discovery that the first amateur astronomers observed a transit of an exoplanet using a 16-inch (40 cm) telescope in Finland. The realization that amateur astronomers could in fact detect exoplanets lead to the formation of transitsearch. org, the first amateur/ professional collaboration to discover exoplanets. In the ensuing years numerous other such collaborations have been formed and dozens of amateur astronomers around the world now regularly observe stars identified by professional astronomers as possibly harboring exoplanets. This paper summarizes the more notable amateur and professional collaborations now ongoing to discover and characterize exoplanets. Tools and techniques used by amateur astronomers in such research are reviewed with an eye towards how amateur astronomers may soon help discover the first earth-sized exoplanet capable of supporting life as we know it.
Society for Astronomical Sciences Annual Symposium
- Pub Date:
- May 2007