• What is Exoplanet Watch?

    Exoplanet Watch is a citizen science project to observe transiting exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system, with small telescopes. A transiting exoplanet is one that periodically passes in front of its host star, causing the star to slightly dim (by about 1%). Observing exoplanet transits is important, as they allow us to directly measure a planet's radius and composition. Exoplanet Watch will help increase the efficiency of exoplanet studies by large telescopes by reducing uncertainty about the predicted timing of transit events.

  • What’s an exoplanet?

    Exoplanet is short for “extrasolar planet,” where “extrasolar” means “outside of our solar system.” So, an exoplanet is a planet outside of our own solar system.

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  • How many exoplanets are in our galaxy? How many have we found?

    Potentially hundreds of billions, or even more! We’ve found a few thousand so far.

  • How do we find exoplanets?

    There are many ways to find an exoplanet, but most have been found with the transit method. By participating in Exoplanet Watch, you can use small telescopes to help make your own transit observations!

  • What’s a transit?

    When a planet passes between its star and an observer, this is called a transit. These events can be detected a slight dimming of the star's light as the planet is transiting across the face of the star. Transits of the Moon, Venus and Mercury across the Sun can be directly seen from Earth.

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  • Why should I help?

    Exoplanet Watch is a citizen science project that will help keep predicted upcoming transit times precise. These measurements will help scientists use large telescopes, such as Hubble, JWST, WFIRST, and ARIEL, more efficiently when they observe a transit to characterize the exoplanet’s atmosphere. Your observations of transiting exoplanets will help Exoplanet Watch to keep these predicted times “fresh,” and therefore you will directly help current and future NASA missions! Also, if any of your data is included in a publication, you will be listed as a co-author. 

  • How can I get involved?

    If you have your own telescope, you can make your own transit observations. You can find suggested targets here and reduce them using your favorite data reduction software or Exoplanet Watch’s official software EXOTIC. If you do not have your own telescope or transiting exoplanet data, please contact project lead Rob Zellem, as there might be some archival data for you to reduce yourself.

  • What should I observe?

    Each day, Exoplanet Watch will identify high-priority targets, here — these targets are those likely to observed with current and future large missions, like Hubble, JWST, WFIRST and ARIEL. While these targets have been determined to be ideal for small telescopes, you are welcome to observe any stars you want to on any given night.

  • How do I observe?

    You can find observation and data-collection guides on the AAVSO website, here and here. Dennis Conti, the Lead of the AAVSO’s Exoplanet Section, has made a useful exoplanet observing guide that can be accessed here.

  • How do I share my data with Exoplanet Watch?

    You can upload your data to the AAVSO’s Exoplanet Database. You will first need to register for a free account on the AAVSO website and then apply for an Observer Code that will anonymously associate you with your data.

  • How can I stay connected?

    You can sign up for our email list, which will send out high-priority targets for each night, as well as the latest news and updates. We also have a very active Slack Channel; to request access to it, please email project lead Rob Zellem at NASA-JPL.

  • What is EXOTIC?

    EXOTIC, the EXOplanet Transit Interpretation Code, is a free program that reduces photometric data of transiting exoplanets into lightcurves and solves for their transit epochs and planetary radii. EXOTIC features the ability to make and fit scientific-grade transit lightcurves and can be run locally (on Windows, Macs, and Linux computers) or in the cloud. You can download EXOTIC here and access a helpful page of EXOTIC FAQs here.

  • How do I cite Exoplanet Watch and/or EXOTIC?

    Please cite the following paper: Zellem et al. 2020, PASP, 132, 4401

  • I'm using Exoplanet Watch data in my publication — what next?

    If you use any Exoplanet Watch data in your publication, you are required to include the observers of those data as co-authors on your paper. To get in touch with your anonymous observer, contact Dennis Conti, the Lead of the AAVSO’s Exoplanet Section, with their observer code. Please also include the following statement in the acknowledgements section of your paper:

    This publication makes use of data products from Exoplanet Watch, a citizen science project managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on behalf of NASA’s Universe of Learning. This work is supported by NASA under award number NNX16AC65A to the Space Telescope Science Institute.


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