What is Exoplanet Watch?
Welcome to Exoplanet Watch! We're glad you're here!
Join Our Team!
Join our Slack to meet other Exoplanet Watch participants, ask questions, troubleshoot problems, get updates on our biweekly full team meetings, and more. We're a fun, friendly, helpful group. Beginners are welcome. Click on the Slack logo below to sign up and/or log into our Slack.
Exoplanet Watch is a NASA citizen science project, sponsored by NASA's Universe of Learning, that lets anyone and everyone (yes, you!) learn about planets that orbit stars beyond our solar system and get involved in observing them.
When you look up into the night sky, do you wonder what's out there beyond our solar system? So do we! Come join us in learning more about exoplanets, the worlds that orbit distant stars.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist or an astrophysicist to actively participate in studying distant worlds. We’ll teach you what you need to know to become a citizen scientist collecting important data on exoplanets. No telescope? No problem! You can use our data checkout system to request data from an exoplanet observation to analyze yourself.
As of February 2023, Exoplanet Watch participants have studied more than 290 different exoplanets, and created more than 1740 light curves.
When planets orbiting in other solar systems pass in front of their stars, the star looks a little bit dimmer to us. This passage is called a transit, and the graph of that dip in brightness is called a light curve. This dimming of the star's light is too small to see with our eyes, but when we have a computer compare a star's brightness over time, it can detect the small changes in brightness during the exoplanet's transit.
Exoplanet Watch lets you turn a series of photographs of a star during an exoplanet transit into a light curve using free software called EXOTIC. Light curves help astronomers learn more about exoplanets. As a citizen scientist, you can learn about exoplanets and study them, too.
With your help, Exoplanet Watch will:
- Make the best use of larger telescopes — more accurately predict the next transit event for follow-up with space-based telescopes (e.g., the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope) or large ground-based telescopes
- Discover new exoplanets — using transit timing variations to infer the existence of an additional exoplanet in a extrasolar system
- Monitor stellar variability — changes in a star's brightness caused by spots (dark regions) and plages (bright regions) of an exoplanet's host star can be measured
- Confirm new exoplanets — help confirm the existence of newly discovered exoplanets
By studying exoplanets, you can help answer NASA's three big science questions about the universe:
How does the universe work?
How did we get here?
Are we alone?
As an Exoplanet Watch citizen scientist, you will:
- Learn how science is done from beginning to end, collecting data, processing it, sharing it, and reading papers that incorporate it
- Observe transiting exoplanets (if you have a telescope), or request data from other people's telescopes (if you do not) using our data checkout system
- Reduce and analyze your data, using our free EXOTIC software, to create your own transiting exoplanet light curves
- Upload your results to the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) Exoplanet Database
- Have your light curve included on the Exoplanet Watch's Results webpage
- If your observations or light curves are used in a scientific paper, your name will be listed as a co-author on the paper, and you will get credit for participating in scientific research
- Meet astronomers who study exoplanets professionally and collaborate with other citizen scientists in our bi-weekly meetings and on our Slack
Sounds great! How do I participate?
Head over to our How to Participate page to learn more and get started!
- Subscribe to our free Monthly Newsletters, which include exoplanets to observe, new project features, information on topics that will be covered in our bi-weekly meetings, a featured member of the month and astrophoto of the month, and links to exoplanet resources.
- Learn more about the science behind Exoplanet Watch from our Background Information and Resources
- Contact us on Slack or via email if you have questions that aren't covered in our Frequently Asked Questions page
We're always open to suggestions on how to make Exoplanet Watch a more interactive and inclusive project and community. You can comment anonymously via our feedback form.
NASA's Universe of Learning materials are based upon work supported by NASA under award number NNX16AC65A to the Space Telescope Science Institute, working in partnership with Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
This project complies with the Paper Reduction Act via Office of Management and Budget Control Number 2700-0168.