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.
0064 274 819 089 (mobile)