Status Report

Utilizing Small Telescopes Operated by Citizen Scientists for Transiting Exoplanet Follow-up

By SpaceRef Editor
March 24, 2020
Filed under , , ,

Robert T. Zellem, Kyle A. Pearson, Ethan Blaser, Martin Fowler, David R. Ciardi, Anya Biferno, Bob Massey, Franck Marchis, Robert Baer, Conley Ball, Mike Chasin, Mike Conley, Scott Dixon, Elizabeth Fletcher, Saneyda Hernandez, Sujay Nair, Quinn Perian, Frank Sienkiewicz, Kalee Tock, Vivek Vijayakumar, Mark R. Swain, Gael M. Roudier, Geoffrey Bryden, Dennis M. Conti, Dolores H. Hill, Carl W. Hergenrother, Mary Dussault, Stephen R. Kane, Michael Fitzgerald, Pat Boyce, Laura Peticolas, Wilfred Gee, Lynn Cominsky, Rachel Zimmerman-Brachman, Denise Smith, Michelle J. Creech-Eakman, John Engelke, Alexandra Iturralde, Diana Dragomir, Nemanja Jovanovic, Brandon Lawton, Emmanuel Arbouch, Marc Kuchner, Arnaud Malvache

(Submitted on 19 Mar 2020)

Due to the efforts by numerous ground-based surveys and NASA’s Kepler and TESS, there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of transiting exoplanets ideal for atmospheric characterization via spectroscopy with large platforms such as JWST and ARIEL. However their next predicted mid-transit time could become so increasingly uncertain over time that significant overhead would be required to ensure the detection of the entire transit. As a result, follow-up observations to characterize these exoplanetary atmospheres would require less-efficient use of an observatory’s time—which is an issue for large platforms where minimizing observing overheads is a necessity. Here we demonstrate the power of citizen scientists operating smaller observatories (≤1-m) to keep ephemerides “fresh”, defined here as when the 1σ uncertainty in the mid-transit time is less than half the transit duration. We advocate for the creation of a community-wide effort to perform ephemeris maintenance on transiting exoplanets by citizen scientists. Such observations can be conducted with even a 6-inch telescope, which has the potential to save up to ∼8000 days for a 1000-planet survey. Based on a preliminary analysis of 14 transits from a single 6-inch MicroObservatory telescope, we empirically estimate the ability of small telescopes to benefit the community. Observations with a small-telescope network operated by citizen scientists are capable of resolving stellar blends to within 5”/pixel, can follow-up long period transits in short-baseline TESS fields, monitor epoch-to-epoch stellar variability at a precision 0.67% ± 0.12% for a 11.3 V-mag star, and search for new planets or constrain the masses of known planets with transit timing variations greater than two minutes.

Comments: 26 pages, 15 figures; accepted for publication by PASP

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)

Cite as: arXiv:2003.09046 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2003.09046v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: Robert Zellem 

[v1] Thu, 19 Mar 2020 23:20:41 UTC (2,272 KB)

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