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Hot and Cold Jupiters: Exoplanet Transit Results from the Unistellar Citizen Scientist Network

Presentation #339.07 in the session Exoplanet Transits II.

Published onJun 29, 2022
Hot and Cold Jupiters: Exoplanet Transit Results from the Unistellar Citizen Scientist Network

Unistellar’s Exoplanet Transit Citizen Science Campaign launched in March 2020 with the goal of providing more amateur astronomers the ability to contribute to the ever-growing field of exoplanet detection and characterization. To date, Unistellar’s global telescope network has detected 170+ exoplanet transits from over 650 observations made by more than 130 citizen scientists with Unistellar’s easy-to-use, 4.5-inch “enhanced vision telescopes” (eVscopes). Many of the participants are doing scientific astronomy for the first time. In the campaign’s current phase, we are combining contemporaneous observations from multiple eVscopes in widely separated locations to detect long-duration transits (observations > 8 hours) by long-period giant exoplanets (P>100 days) that cannot typically be observed in their entirety by individual ground-based telescopes. These include rare transiting “cold Jupiters” that shed light on planetary system evolution mechanisms. One example is our measurement of HD 80606b’s 12-hour transit (P=111 days) with six eVscopes over the course of 27 hours in December 2021, for which we constrained the ingress, mid-transit, and egress times to support scheduling of a Cycle 1 JWST observation that will characterize the extremely eccentric planet’s atmosphere. We also routinely follow up short-duration, short-period hot Jupiters to keep their orbital ephemerides “fresh” through regular mid-transit time measurements at a precision of several minutes or better (68% confidence). These include TESS planet candidates (dozens already detected), for which we can simultaneously vet the candidates for false positives and transit timing variations. Data are released publicly through the AAVSO Exoplanet Database and the TESS ExoFOP database, and light curve results returned to the observers. Contributions to other science cases include corroboration of the transit time of Saturn-sized WASP-148b to guide a Rossiter-McLaughlin measurement for the first constraint on the planet’s spin-orbit alignment (Wang et al. 2022). We are linking these science goals to educational programs, including incorporation of donated eVscopes into 22 community college astronomy classrooms across the United States to broaden hands-on astronomy access and development of observational astronomy lab materials for students at multiple levels, in work supported by the SETI Institute and generous grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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