Amateur astronomers are making great contributions to the detection and monitoring of extrasolar planets, which are planets orbiting stars other than our own sun. With a moderately sized telescope and commercially available CCD camera, it is possible to detect the periodic 1% drop in a star’s brightness caused by a planet crossing in front of its star. Despite the frigid February weather, I have attempted to detect such planets by using the Meade 16″ telescope at the new Eastern Iowa Observatory and Learning Center, part of the Cedar Amateur Astronomer’s Palisades-Dows Observatory. I have used differential photometry to analyze the CCD images, produce precise light curves, and model the planet’s orbital parameters and size.
Julia Kamenetzky, ’08 Bettendorf, IA
Sponsor: Derin Sherman