Astronomy expert to discuss amateur astronomer exoplanet observation techniques

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - 09:25
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What: Dennis M. Conti, chairman of the American Association of Variable Star Observers’ exoplanet section, will discuss techniques that amateur astronomers use to observe planets outside the solar system – also called exoplanets – and how they can contribute to scientific research.

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 (Tuesday).

Where: UNT Sky Theater, 1704 W. Mulberry St. in Denton.

Tickets: Free, but reservations are required due to limited seating. For reservations, call 940-369-8213 or email skytheater@unt.edu.

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- New research has astronomers believing that most stars outside of the solar system have one or more planets orbiting them called extrasolar planets – or exoplanets – some of which could potentially harbor life. The Kepler space telescope has had great success in detecting exoplanets by measuring the dip in light of a planet’s host star as the planet passes in front of it. But, can a properly trained amateur astronomer also detect such transits?

Dennis M. Conti, chairman of the American Association of Variable Star Observers’ exoplanet section, says yes – and he will present such observation techniques at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 in the UNT Sky Theater, 1704 W. Mulberry St. in Denton.

“Currently, one of the most exciting areas of astronomy is the study of planets orbiting distant stars outside our solar system,” Conti said. “We now know that some of these exoplanets are in an orbit in the so-called habitable zone, namely an area that is at the right distance from an exoplanet’s parent star where liquid water may exist – an essential ingredient for life. With the latest imaging equipment available to them, amateur astronomers are now helping professional astronomers characterize the size and orbit of exoplanets. As such, amateur astronomers are materially contributing to our understanding of these distant worlds. “

Having recently headed up a collaboration of amateur astronomers who provided observations in support of a Hubble science team’s study of more than a dozen exoplanets, Conti knows the importance of ground-based research and wants to recruit more observers for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite – a space telescope scheduled for launch in 2018.

“Dr. Conti brings an exciting opportunity to our students as well as to area amateur astronomers, as he presents the fine points of acquiring and sharing data supporting our search for life on other planets,” UNT planetarium and astronomy laboratory director Ron “Starman” Dilulio said. “UNT is at the forefront of this surge, as it will introduce a new program at the event describing how our undergraduate students can participate in research in tandem with professional astronomers.”

The free event is open to the public, but reservations are required due to limited seating. To make a reservation, call 940-369-8213 or email skytheater@unt.edu. For more information, visit www.astrodennis.com

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108