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Old 17-04-2010, 05:40 AM
binofied
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So who else has discovered a planet here?

This is both some info and an invitation to the right person. I think there are those here having the equipment and skills needed to do well calibrated, guided exposures of a given star. This is all you need to be part of serious cutting edge science and discover a planet.

For three years now I have been involved in a pro-am collaboration called MicroFun (microlense followup network). We are doing extra solar planet searching, using gravitational microlensing. We managed one discovery each season that I have been involved. Since only about 400 planets have been discovered to date (using any methods) and I have been part the discovery of four. So as an "amateur" I have had input as part of a collaboration, for one percent of all know extra solar planets!

How it works, very simplistically. There are two large survey telescopes. MOAII at Mt John in Tekapo, New Zealand, and OGLE4 in Chile. They do nightly mosaics of the entire Sagittarius and Scorpio region of the sky, looking for the start of a Microlense event. They can get easily to mag 22 or better. Once the lense starts to brighten the uFun network of smaller (~30 - 50cm) telescopes kick in to get saturation coverage, worldwide (timezone wide) for the duration of the event. We simply calibrate our images then zip then and send them off to Ohio State University where they use DOPHOT for quick rough photometry (still miles ahead of simple apeture photometry) or later using DIA to extract every last photon if there is a planet and precise photometry is needed.

We have a large number of us involved in New Zealand (Auckland here) but very few in Australia. The issue is this. We need light curves from one star, with as much 24hr worldwide saturation coverage as possible, over about a five day period. However when it’s cloudy here in New Zealand or Tasmania or Perth where we have a few observers already we have large gaps in the light curve. This makes it much harder or impossible for the Pro’s to decipher the information to figure out if there is a planet signature or to be able to constrain the mass, distances etc of the planet. The pros are in several universities Ohio State, Prague, Auckland, Canterbury, Japan and a Korean university.

To contribute you would need to be able to do a all of the following;

Have a commitment to several overnights of imaging in a row as an event unfolds. Two nights are a minimum for data to be useful.
Have a ~14” or larger telescope that can be used at a moments notice
Be able to take a series of five minute guided exposures
Be competent at image calibration (flats, darks)
Have a B&W preferably cooled CCD camera.
Have enough internet bandwidth to upload about 30Mb zip file at the end of the night.
Be methodical and reliable.
Be able to find a given RA Dec using pinpoint or other plate solving method

If you’re in Australia and are interested in more information because you think you could honestly contribute to this exciting research please get in touch with me.

David Moorhouse
acrux@orcon.net.nz
0064 274 819 089 (mobile)

Last edited by binofied; 17-04-2010 at 05:57 AM.
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Old 17-04-2010, 08:24 PM
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Hi Dave,
Your work sounds very interesting and not above what a lot of people here can be capable of, but it's a shame to think that there are so many really good observers here not doing more in the way of contributing to Astronomy Science.
There's not a lot of us here doing exactly that, i can tell you i have my fingers in a few pies in Astronomy Science, but i find it hard to encourage people on this site to take up the simplest of form like variable stars and occultations let alone planet searches!

Good luck, let's hope you find a few people that can jump on board!
Are you with RASNZ at all??


You might also want to send an email to a fellow countryman of yours by the name of John Drummond.
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Old 18-04-2010, 06:06 AM
binofied
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Thanks, your right about it being hard to get people interested. My hope is that the idea that any ameteur can actually be part of a real planet discovery will spark someone elses imagination. It is very cutting edge stuff and very few others have been there before you. The first planet discovered by Microlensing was only about five years ago!

I have also been doing a lot of astrophotography over the last few years and to be honest this stuff is very easy in comparison. All you need to do are five minute guided exposures. You don't need to do any autoguider dithering or multiple filters. The feilds are always busy being in the galactic bulge meaning you always have a bright guide star. You don't have to do anything with your images other than dark subtract and flat feilding. So no aligning, stacking let alone colour combining and balancing or stretching, masks etc.

The data extraction is done by data processing pipelines at Ohio State University.

A typical event starts with an E-Mail from Ohio State who are analysing all the possible candidates found by the big MOA and OGLE survey scopes. It says we thing MB077 will possibly go high mag in two days. They only have data from MOA of what the event has done up until that time and have no real idea of how it will finally unfold. As more data comes in they can get a bit more of the graph and see if it's going higher or lower than the prediction possibly signalling an anomaly. The flurry of E-Mails as the Pros discuss possible models of the event are spell binding as it unfolds. There are four possible outcomes. It is a normal star with no planet, it is a binary star, the data is so sparse or ambiguous they can not deconvolve the outcome (this is rare). It is a planet!! On several occasions the results show that it is actually two planets around a star!

It has taken me about two years to get to grips with the science behind, even in crude terms, how they deconvolve the light curve to figure out what combinations of source/ planet mass ratio rotational speed and often the planets actual mass. So if you like high end physics it doesn't get any better than this. This idea was dismissed my Einstien as being impossible to ever see happen, he refused for several year to even publish a paper on it as he knew how hard it would be to ever prove. If you had 1,000,000 observers all taking very accurate measurements of stars as dim as mag 22 doing 10 observations each night, ten of them may detect a microlensing event once a year. Every ten years one of those events would yeild a planet!

Attached is the data from a recent event that has been proven to be a binary.

http://www.binoscope.co.nz/MB10077.jpg

Last edited by binofied; 18-04-2010 at 06:19 AM.
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Old 18-04-2010, 08:32 AM
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Thats incredible!
As time goes on i think more and more good science can be obtained with "off the shelf" telescopes and accessories.
You should have done a talk in Canberra at the recent NACAA convention, this is a good place to start getting the word out about it to people who want to learn what they can do with their scopes.
I know of one fellow in Armidale, NSW, who has a 14" Meade but it seems to just gather dust as the owner is a doctor and always on call! Its a pity that i don't have access to this sort of gear.

It would be good to access one of the Faulkes telescopes through a school program to try for this sort of stuff too!

Cheers and thanks for sharing the data!

Do you have a website for this sort of stuff? I might know a few people who would be interested, you could try some people in the RASNZ Occultations groups who may want to take up the challenge!
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Old 18-04-2010, 09:27 AM
binofied
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The home group is at

http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~microfun/

There is some information here and a lot of data, there is a link to the first workshop we held as one group a few years ago. The slideshows may not mean much without expert commentary but go have a look.

http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/...MF1/index.html

This was over three days and a lot of this is detailed stuff rather than a fluffy press release so don't expect to understand the implications of what the graphs are showing you. :-)

As for the RASNZ we have enough observers in NZ already (inc John Drummond) I am trying to reach any sort of group in Australia that may be simaliar. Anyone doing supernova searches is perfectly suited to doing this research. The main difference is intense monitoring of one feild rather than skipping over dozens per night and simpler data processing at the observers end. Also you are part of a collaberation rather than an individual discoverer. The three main groups can't exist without each other. The large survey telescopes catching the precursor to events, the followup of lots of small telescopes (over different time zones) and the university professors who analyse the light curves. No single group can exist without the other. No single person could possibly find, image and analyse a microlense event.
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Old 18-04-2010, 09:35 AM
binofied
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Actually this talk by Scott Gaudi (OSU) is about as simple as the explaination of the interpretation of Microlensing light curve analysis gets.

http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/...nomenology.pdf

At the end of the PDF are real curves of actual planet discoveries.
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Old 18-04-2010, 08:19 PM
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Chris mentions the RAZNZ particularly because the Australian occultation reductions are coordinated there before on-reporting to the MPC.

So ironically, the best way to gey to a bunch of Australians with aperture, millisecond timing gear and ultra sensitive cameras is through that route

Having said that, on or two of us hang out here too, and are all ears. I am in the process of establishing a new observatory with a 14" LX200 which should be operational in a month or so. This should be more apropriate for this sort of work than my existing 20" dob which has served me well for occultation work and will continue to do so as my field grab'n'go!

I will talk off-line.

Jonathan
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Old 18-04-2010, 10:21 PM
PeterM
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Hi Dave,

Have followed your postings with much interest, admiration, and excitement that there is yet another area of this great hobby that amateur astronomers can make valuable contributions to the science of astronomy. Great work indeed Dave. As Bob Evans once told me SN hunting is not sexy any more - it's now the extra solar planets, well maybe he is right, but still I enjoy the SN hunt.
Stuart Parker has given me some more info as well. At this stage I am not quite in a position to give 100% for such a project as still heavily involved in the SN searching and 4 months of crap weather not being able to string a couple of nights together hasn't helped.
When I can be sure of 100% commitment then I will follow you up, by then you will have 10 or more no doubt.

Astrojunk is the man for then task and I know his commitment will be more than you could ever hope for, a heck of a nice bloke also.

All the best.
PeterM.

Last edited by PeterM; 19-04-2010 at 06:59 AM.
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Old 19-04-2010, 11:06 AM
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Hi Dave,
In conjunction with Peter above, I have been involved with SN searching for many years now (althought never a first discoverer, unfortunately) and I have the gear required that you outlined, except that my 14" LX200R is not yet housed in an observatory. I would be more than happy to be a part of this, but the weather in SE Queensland is currently the worst that I can remember in years and years, and makes it hard to do anything under a clear sky at present.
So, please count me in as someone who is waiting for the clear weather to reurn, and my obsevratory to be built. In the meantime, if there is an ongoing thread, or other information that I could subscribe to, to keep me in touch with developments here, please let me know.
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