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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

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!