Week 8: Problems and Solutions

May 19, 2023

Hello! This week introduced me to some of the problems astronomers encounter in their research. As I’ve discussed in blogs prior, I have been having trouble developing a light curve for Tres-2 b. First, the problem was a couple of corrupted files that skewed the data. I worked with Dr. Tanner and Dr. Robert Zellum, the project lead for NASA’s Exoplanet Watch, to find and remove the corrupted files. I then ran EXOTIC again and this image turned up:

I could not hope to find my target star or my comparison stars in the mess of stars in the left image. I attempted to estimate the coordinates but my light curve turned out like this:

I clearly estimated wrong since that is not a transit at all. After a couple of hours of guessing and checking different coordinates, I decided to move onto a nearby star, Tres-3, to try and find a planet there. It worked this time!

This star chart proved much easier to read and I was able to produce an accurate light curve.

This week I also continued the Yale course on exoplanets and learned about the composition of our universe. Dr. Bailyn discussed the radial velocity method of detecting exoplanets in-depth and introduced the class to Hot Jupiters, the most common type of exoplanet. These planets are huge (about the size of Jupiter as the name implies or about 1,400 times the size of Earth), hot (around 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit), and super close to their star. Their period is also super short. One of the most prominent examples of this is 51 Pegasi b, which has a period of 4 days. These planets baffled astronomers for a while since they were nothing like any planets we have in our solar system. Why are there so many Hot Jupiters? Is our solar system rare? Probably not. This is an example of the selection effect. Since it is relatively easy to find hot, big, and fast planets compared to small, far, and slow planets, scientists tend to find more of the former. I thought this was fascinating since all the planets I have been researching have been Hot Jupiters. That’s all for this week! Thank you so much for reading my blog. 

  • Maren Willard

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