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Join over 2,370 Watchers on our Slack!
Questions? Email exoplanetwatch@jpl.nasa.gov.
Beginners are always welcome!

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  • Brand new? Start here with this New User Checklist.
  • Join our Slack Workspace, the primary way Watchers communicate. Ask questions, get answers, suggest an exoplanet to observe, see beautiful astrophotography, and more.
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Community Highlight​s

Watcher of the Month

Watchers can apply/nominate others for a chance to be featured here as well as in our monthly newsletter. To sign up for the monthly newsletters, subscribe in the sidebar or follow the instructions here.

Dr. Valerie Rapson

Image Credit: Dr. Valerie Rapson, used here with permission

Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy at SUNY Oneonta

What kind of telescope do you use to observe exoplanets?

So far my students and I have used a 14in Celestron SCT at the SUNY Oneonta Observatory. But we recently upgraded our 1m telescope with new motors and encoders, so we hope to use that to study exoplanets in the near future! It's the perfect tool to gather data on TESS exoplanet candidates, and help confirm the detection of some of those sources.

What inspires you about studying exoplanets?

Exoplanets are just so fascinating! My work as a Ph.D. student focused on studying the disks of gas and dust around nearby young stars so we could better understand how stars and planets form. This is what sparked my interest in exoplanets in the first place.

Now that I'm teaching at a University that has a suite of quality telescopes, I really enjoy taking pictures, analyzing the data, and watching that dip in the light curve pop up on the screen. It makes staying up all night totally worth it! Studying exoplanet light curves is also a great hands-on project for college students, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to work with students in this endeavor.

What inspires you about participating in citizen science?

I am a huge believer in the idea that anyone can learn astronomy, and the more people we have participating in science, the better! I love giving public talks about astronomy, and inspiring others to participate in scientific research. We're entering an era where there is going to be so much astronomical data that the professionals just aren't going to have the time to analyze it all. Citizen science is going to play a crucial role in making astronomical discoveries going forward, and everyone who is interested should be able to participate.

What else would you like us to know about you?

Exoplanet Watch makes it so easy to get involved in studying exoplanets. Despite my educational background, I did not have any direct training on how to gather or analyze exoplanet data. The tools and software provided by Exoplanet Watch made it quick and easy to learn, for both me and my research students. I have had a lot of fun working with exoplanet data, and am excited to be part of a community that enjoys citizen science and science communication as much as I do.

We are constantly getting new images and data back from Hubble, JWST and other telescopes that are teaching us more about exoplanets. It's really cool that I can play a small contributing part in these studies by participating in Exoplanet Watch, gathering my own data, and (hopefully) helping confirm TESS candidates going forward. I encourage anyone with a telescope and a camera to give it a shot!

Click here to see past Members of the Month

Astrophoto of the Month

Watchers can post in our #astrophotography Slack channel for a chance to be featured here as well as in our monthly newsletter. To sign up for the monthly newsletters, subscribe in the sidebar or follow the instructions here.

NGC 1931 by Erick Jasmir Aguilar

Credit: Erick Jasmir Aguilera, used here with permission

"R, V and B filters and with 90 seconds of exposure each filter."
From the Schools' Observatory Liverpool Robotic Telescope.
See the original, full resolution image on Slack.

Read more about "The Spider and the Fly."

If you have any photos you would like to share with the Exoplanet Watch team, post them on our #astrophotography Slack channel. We would love to see them!

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