Agent Exoplanet

If you're a regular reader (one of the two) you'll know that I work for Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope. An aim of LCOGT is to help the interested amateur take their interest further and start to do their own scientific research. With that aim in mind, we decided to create a project for citizen scientists that focused on one of our areas of scientific interest. This first project - named Agent Exoplanet - takes you through the process of discovering the properties of exoplanets via the transit technique. It launched today.

Agent Exoplanet contains hundreds of images taken by LCOGT telescopes in California, Hawaii and Australia of planets orbiting their stars and blocking out a small fraction of the light. There are three planets included at the moment but we have a few more datasets nearly ready to add. I'll let LCOGT astronomer Rachel Street explain more in this video:

Early on the project needed a name (Planet Hunters got taken) and Agent Exoplanet ended up being the best name on our list. The name gave us a theme and we've had fun designing the interface to go with it. We've also tried to put some effort into explaining what to do with briefings, online tutorials and links to background information. Please try it out and let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements (remember it is for a fairly general audience).

Although we made this for exoplanets, the main part of the project infrastructre is simply about measuring lightcurves so is adaptable to other types of astronomical object. As an example, Ed dumped in our public observations of the supernova in M51 during the summer and we quickly had the lightcurve which surprised us as it was still rising. That was pretty exciting and showed us that it worked!

This has been our first major project like this but it won't be the last. We have more ideas...

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 26th Sep 2011 (21:39 BST) | Permalink
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