Friday, July 18, 2008

Amateur Astronomers Hunt Bigger Game.

Amateur Astronomers have long been active in the hunt for comets and asteroids, but now the art of exoplanet hunting has reached a level where amateur astronomers are making serious contributions. JPL's PlanetQuest website lists eight exoplanets discovered by amateurs. The main blog of these exoplanet hunters is Greg Laughlin's Systemic ( " users can employ a program called Systemic to comb through data about how certain stars wobble as they travel through space; this information can then be used to detect planets, which pull on their host stars as they orbit." According to PlanetQuest, these amateur astronomers are using telescopes with mirrors as small as 10-12cm!

For those slightly less ambitious, JPL's PlanetQuest is a fantastic site for those interested in exoplanets. It has information on all 307 (currently) known exoplanets in its atlas as well as information about planet hunting techniques, current and future planet hunting missions, and much more. This site and the much more bare-bones Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia are filled with fascinating information as well as demonstrations of how much more there is to learn.

<JPL PlanetQuest>
<JPL PlanetQuest article on amateur exoplanet hunters>
<Systemic Blog>
<Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia>

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