Probing for puny planets
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Probing for Puny Planets. Nick Cowan (for Eric Agol) October 19, 2006. Extrasolar Planets. … are planets orbiting other stars. We’ve discovered some 200 of them. They’re mostly in tight orbits (days/weeks) They’re mostly pretty big (Jupiter-sized).

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Probing for Puny Planets

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Probing for puny planets

Probing for Puny Planets

Nick Cowan (for Eric Agol)

October 19, 2006


Extrasolar planets

Extrasolar Planets

  • … are planets orbiting other stars.

  • We’ve discovered some 200 of them.

  • They’re mostly in tight orbits (days/weeks)

  • They’re mostly pretty big (Jupiter-sized).

  • The small (Earth-sized) ones are the ones we’d like to know about.

  • Small planets are hard to detect.


Transiting planets

Transiting Planets

  • A very small number (10 or so) of the known extrasolar systems happen to be oriented so that the planet passes in front of its host star.


Orbital resonance

Orbital Resonance

  • …is like pushing someone on a swing

  • As long as you always push them at the same point in their swing, they’ll go higher and higher…


Detecting small planets

Detecting Small Planets

  • If even a little planet happens to be in an orbital resonance with a giant planet planet, it will cause a noticeable shift in the giant planet’s orbit!

  • This shift will change the transit time of the giant planet.

  • If only we had lots of recorded transit for some planet…


Hd 209458 b

HD 209458 b

  • … was the first transiting extrasolar planet discovered.

  • Lots of people have looked at this system with Hubble, and their images becomes public a year after they’re taken.


How to detect a terrestrial planet with current technology

How to Detect a Terrestrial Planet (with current technology!)

  • Grab all the public HST images of HD 209458.

  • Construct light curves for loads and loads of transits.

  • See if the transits are regular like clockwork, or if their timing is a bit off.


What you ll do

What You’ll Do

  • Retrieve and work with Hubble Space Telescope images!

  • Learn about “Hot Jupiters”!

  • See what “Limb Darkening” is all about!

  • Learn about “Orbital Resonances”!

  • See Eric get super excited and scribble on his chalk board!


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