Successful Exoplanet Results from Unistellar Citizen Astronomers

"Roasted Planet" Detection Supports Future JWST Observation!

Visit our blog to read all about the tremendous Unistellar team effort to detect the extreme planet HD 80606 b’s transit in December 2021, providing data that could save valuable time for JWST in an upcoming observation to study the planet in detail.

Spitzer Exoplanet Observation of HD 80606b (credits NASA)
Spitzer Exoplanet Observation of HD 80606b (credits NASA)

Kepler-167e Marathon Transit Event: Observations Complete

Thank you to everyone who participated in our around-the-world exoplanet observation! Our science team is hard at work analyzing your data and will post intermediate updates to the citizen science Slack workspace before posting final results here. We got excellent participation from so many people:

During a 32 hour window across 18 & 19 November, 2021, 31 Unistellar citizen astronomers collected 43 observations of Kepler-167e, a Jupiter-like exoplanet with a 1,071 day orbit. If successful, we believe this would set the record for the longest duration transit (16 hours) ever detected from ground-based telescopes. See our blog for details. Preliminary results are promising!

Unprecedented Exoplanet Transit

100 Exoplanet Transits Detected by Unistellar Citizen Astronomers!

In October 2021, the Unistellar Network passed 100 exoplanet transit detections by its citizen astronomers with eVscopes around the world. Since April 2020, nearly 100 different network members have collected over 380 observations to measure the slight dimming of a star as an exoplanet orbits it. These astronomers have participated from 18 countries and four continents. On average, they are now observing one transit per night.

The exoplanets they have detected are a mix of confirmed and candidate planets, all approximately the size of Jupiter but most with orbits that take them around their stars in less than ten days. From the eVscope images the observers capture, Unistellar & SETI Institute astronomers (and, increasingly, the citizen scientists themselves) create “light curves” like those below that show the dip in the star’s brightness as we see the planet orbit past it.

Measurements of the time the transit occurred are being recorded in the AAVSO Exoplanet Database (see below) to keep those planets’ orbits up to date. For planet candidates from NASA’s TESS mission, we are also confirming that the transit occurs around the target star in question and is not a false signal. Together, these 100 detections and the Unistellar Network’s observers are contributing valuable pieces to our knowledge of alien worlds.

Unistellar observations in the public AAVSO Exoplanet Database

Visit the AAVSO Exoplanet Database to find 48 exoplanet transit detections that Unistellar citizen scientists have contributed to that public data repository so astronomers can better understand planets in our galaxy. (Search for Observer Code “UNIS” to find Unistellar entries.) Anyone can contribute light curve data to this database by creating a free user account at aavso.org.

Unistellar citizen astronomers' observations presented at NASA TESS conference

Exoplanet candidate transit observations by Unistellar citizen scientists were presented in a poster at the second TESS Science Conference on August 2–6, 2021. Click on the image to the left to see an overview of this ongoing program and the results of measurements made from eVscope data to help confirm the orbits and nature of newly discovered candidate exoplanets from NASA’s TESS mission. Here is a link to the high resolution poster and video explaining it by SETI Institute astronomer and Unistellar Space Science Principal, Tom Esposito.

Highlight: Results from eVscope observations of exoplanet HD 189733b

 

HD 189733b Exoplanet Artist's View

 

On November 6, 2020 Unistellar citizen astronomers observed exoplanet HD 189733b pass in front of (or transit across) its star!

HD 189733b is a hot, Jupiter-sized exoplanet that orbits its star every 2.2 days. It is 13% more massive than Jupiter and its winds blow 7 times the speed of sound!

Interestingly, it was the first exoplanet to have its color measured! Its blue color doesn’t come from oceans of water on its surface but possibly from a hazy atmosphere with clouds full of tiny glass shards. Read more about these observations of this “true blue planet.”

“By combining 3 citizen astronomers’ eVscope observations from across Europe, we timed HD 189733b crossing its star to within a couple of minutes, 63 light-years from Earth!,” said Tom Esposito, lead exoplanet astronomer with the SETI Institute & the Unistellar Exoplanet Team.

The three observations were made by Unistellar citizen astronomers Mario Billiani (Austria), Stephan Abel (Germany), and Julien de Lambilly (Switzerland).

Transit light curves like this one are used to visualize an exoplanet transit from collected data. This light curve shows the transit of HD 189733b, which caused the flux (brightness) of that planet’s host star to dim and then return to normal. The gray circles and blue squares on the larger plot indicate the brightness of the star measured over time, which was compared with an astronomical model (the red line) to estimate the planet’s properties. This shows that the star dimmed by 2.8% (the dip along the plot’s vertical axis) as HD 189733b transited it. The depth of this dip tells us the planet’s size as compared to the star. The smaller plot below shows how well the data matched the astronomical models (near zero is a good match).

 

The animation above illustrates how the three individual “light curves” were merged into one combined light curve.

All three individual observations were consistent with previous observations of this planet made by 10 professional-grade telescopes in 2005 & 2006, which is pretty impressive for a 4.5-inch telescope that can collect scientific data right from your backyard!

Esposito added, “Also, combining the eVscope observations led to a more precise measurement of the transit’s timing than using individual observations, which shows great promise for future cooperative science with the growing Unistellar Network!”

“It’s like in the old cartoon: with your powers combined… we are Captain Planet!”

Unistellar partners closely with the SETI Institute, which includes a great team of exoplanet scientists. Many thanks to the SETI Institute & the Unistellar Exoplanet Team: Tom Esposito, Dan Peluso, and Arin Avsar for planning this observation, analyzing the data, and sharing these great results with us!

 

Testimonials from Unistellar Citizen Astronomers

 

Mario Billiani eVscope Unistellar Citizen Astronomer

Mario Billiani, Unistellar Citizen Astronomer from Austria

“This was my first successful detection of an exoplanet with my eVscope so this campaign result is of particular value to me. I also appreciate that we could combine the light curve with two other simultaneous observations to improve the data.”

 

Stephan Abel eVscope Unistellar Citizen Astronomer

Stephan Abel, Unistellar Citizen Astronomer from Germany

“The observation of the HD 189733 b transit was the first opportunity my eVscope had to be used in a Unistellar citizen science project. My first problem was to find a suitable observation site. Light pollution in the southwest of Germany is generally high, and I live near Koblenz, where this is even more pronounced.

So I chose a viewing platform for hikers about 20 km from my apartment, near the village of Rüscheid.

This is located in a field, so I had to carry my eVscope about 500m there, but thanks to my backpack and low weight, it was no problem!

The weather was cool and windy, I was very happy that I had warm clothes and hot tea with me. Also were two horses in the paddock, eyeing me curiously. Otherwise there were no spectators. I am fascinated by the sight of starry skies every time, even if a lot cannot be seen with the eyes in Bortle class 4 area.

It was pure luck that I bought the eVscope in August. I hadn’t heard of it before, but I wanted to get a telescope again.

In my youth I owned a 6 ” Newtonian telescope, an entry-level model, difficult to handle.

I was immediately convinced of the design of the eVscope, as it is easy to use and easy to transport in combination with digital optics which are crucial for hobby astronomy.”

Originally translated from German:

“Die Beobachtung des Transit von HD 189733 b war die erste Gelegenheit mein EVScope im Citizensience Projekt von Unistellar zu nutzen. Mein erstes Problem bestand darin einen geeigneten Beobachtungsort zu finden. Im Südwesten Deutschland’s ist die Lichtverschmutzung allgemein hoch, und ich wohne in der Nähe von Koblenz, wo diese sich noch störender bemerkbar macht.

Ich wählte daher eine Aussichtsplattform für Wanderer etwas 20 km von meiner Wohnung, bei dem Dorf Rüscheid.

Diese ist auf einem Acker gelegen, daher musste ich mein EVScope noch etwa 500m dahin tragen, aber Dank Rucksack und kleinem Gewicht kein Problem!

Das Wetter war kühl und windig, ich war sehr froh, dass ich warme Kleidung und heissen Tee dabei hatte. Auch waren zwei Pferde auf der Koppel, und beäugten mich neugierig. Ansonsten gab es keine Zuschauer. Der Anblick des Sternenhimmels fansziniert mich jedes mal, auch wenn bei Bortle Klasse 4 vieles mit dem Auge nicht zu sehen ist.

Es war reiner Zufall, dass ich das mir das EVScope im Auguste kaufte. Ich hatte vorher nichts davon gehört, wollte mir aber ein Teleskop wieder zulegen.

In der Jugend besaß ich ein 6″ Newton Fernrohr, ein Einsteigermodell, schwer zu händeln.

Von dem Design des EVScope war ich sofort überzeugt, da mir einfache Bedienbarkeit und gute Transportfähigkeit in Kombination mit der digitalen Optik für die Hobbyastronomie ausschlaggebend sind.”

 

Julien de Lambilly eVscope Unistellar Citizen Astronomer

Julien de Lambilly, Unistellar Citizen Astronomer from Switzerland

“The HD 189733b campaign was particularly interesting to me because they wanted to compare the eVscope to research telescopes. I wanted to know how valuable our data could be!

So on November 6, I went to a mountain pass, le Col du Marchairuz at an elevation of 1389m in Switzerland to observe the HD 189733b transit. The sky was clear, Bortle class 4 and there was a lot of humidity, but luckily no wind at all. The temperature went from 4 to 2 degrees Celsius by the end.

I was a bit worried, because this was the first time I’d observed an exoplanet transit on a bright star like HD 189733.

I don’t know why I was worried anyway, Tom Esposito did the maths and told me it would fit just right!

On November 25 we discovered the results on the Unistellar slack channel. It was the first time the exoplanet experts from Unistellar were able to combine the data from different observers! And the light curve looked beautiful and indeed more precise than my own alone. This makes even more sense to work as a community! I’m proud to have participated! Special thanks to Dan Peluso and Tom Esposito for providing the opportunity!”

Exoplanets Detections by Unistellar Telescopes as of 03/03/2022

Generated by wpDataTables

Glossary

 

  • Exoplanet Candidate: A potential planet outside our solar system that has been discovered by a telescope, but not yet definitively proven to be a planet. Data from Unistellar citizen astronomers’ observations can help confirm these as real planets!
  • Full Detection: A light curve complete with measurements from before the transit started until after it ended, showing a dip in the star’s brightness that has a high likelihood (>99%) of being from the transit and not a false alarm from noise in the data.
  • Partial Detection: An incomplete light curve containing measurements from only the beginning or end of a transit, showing a brightness dip with a high likelihood of being real.
  • Joint Detection: A light curve, often incomplete or of low significance, that shows a full detection when combined with other light curves.
  • Low Significance: A partial or complete light curve with relatively noisy data that prevents us from concluding (with >99% confidence) that a transit was detected. Still, we find some evidence of a transit in the light curve.
  • No Detection: A light curve that shows no evidence of a transit even though the brightness measurements are precise enough to have detected a transit if one did occur. We can confidently say the targeted planet did not transit during the time of this observation.
  • Inconclusive: A light curve from which we cannot say with confidence whether or not a transit occurred. This is usually due to brightness measurements that are too imprecise or over too short a time span.
  • In Progress: Data that are actively being analyzed, awaiting analysis, or on hold awaiting future re-analysis.
  • TOI: TESS Object of Interest. An exoplanet candidate for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), NASA’s current exoplanet finding mission.
  • HAT: Hungarian-made Automated Telescope. A robotic network of small telescopes in Australia, Chile, Namibia, and the United States to search for transiting exoplanets.
  • KELT: Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope. Consisting of two telescopes in Arizona, United States and Sutherland, South Africa, its goal is to discover transiting exoplanets.
  • WASP: Wide Angle Search for Planets. A pair of small robotic telescopes at La Palma Observatory, Canary Islands and Sutherland, South Africa to discover transiting exoplanets.