UNITE: Unistellar Network Investigating TESS Exoplanets
A NASA Citizen Science project
Use your telescope to confirm the existence of newly discovered worlds
Join the worldwide Unistellar Network of citizen scientists and professional astronomers to discover and characterize some of the most interesting exoplanets in our galaxy!
Giant exoplanets resembling Jupiter that have been recently discovered by TESS, NASA’s current exoplanet hunting mission, need your help. Astronomers don’t have enough information to fully understand the orbits of these planets, which take months or years to circle their star once. This is usually because TESS and other telescopes haven’t had many chances to catch the temporary dimming of the exoplanet’s star as the planet passes, or transits, in front it.
This is where you and UNITE come in! Only a network of people around the world, cooperating to observe the same target, will be able to catch more transits by these exoplanets. This can be because these planets take many hours to transit their star (much longer than a single night on Earth) or because the dates of future transits cannot yet be accurately predicted. With your observations, scientists can understand the orbits and conditions of these foreign worlds like never before.
Explore below to learn about exoplanets or get started tonight!
Don’t have a Unistellar telescope? Here’s how you can still be part of the UNITE mission.
Featured Exoplanet Transit for August 2023:
Observation dates: 27 August – 28 August
We need your help investigating the orbit of HD 114082b, a young super-Jupiter in a dusty disk!
The Unistellar network has observed the star HD 114082 in search of a transit before, but its exoplanet, HD 114082b, is elusive. Only two transits have been observed by TESS, NASA’s planet hunting satellite, but astronomers were able to confirm the planet’s existence in November of 2022 using the initial transit combined with radial velocity data – which shows how the host star wiggles under the influence of the planet.
Studies indicate that this gas giant has a mass 8 times that of Jupiter and orbits its star every ~120 days, making it a “warm super-Jupiter.” But astronomers are still unsure of its period (how long it takes to orbit its star) because the two transits observed by TESS appear quite different. That could be because this planet’s star is home to a large dusty disk that shows evidence for its youth, as well as planet formation! This disk, along with variability in the star’s brightness, could be throwing off scientific measurements. That means that we need more information to confirm the planet’s period – and you can help by watching for another transit!
Join this mission and learn more at the Pick Your Target page!
Featured Results: TOI 1812.01
In the first of several NASA-sponsored exoplanet hunts in 2022, Citizen Astronomers searched for a transit of TOI 1812.01. This planet, the outermost of three gaseous planets around a relatively cool star, is Saturn-sized with its radius nine times the size of Earth’s. Despite having two transits observed by TESS, its period (the length of its year) was poorly known: previous estimates ranged from 71 – 157 days. To nail down the orbit, 20 Citizen Astronomers tracked TOI 1812.01 for three nights over the course of two months. Only on the third night, August 27, did they spot the exoplanet and confirm that it takes 112 days to orbit its star.
Meet the Team
Meet the SETI Institute scientists behind the Unistellar Network’s NASA-Sponsored Exoplanet Programs:
Paul Dalba, PhD – Exoplanets Lead, Observation Planning, Data Analysis
Tom Esposito, PhD – UNITE Principal Investigator, Exoplanets Co-Lead, Pipeline Development
Lauren Sgro, PhD – Data Analysis, Communications
Franck Marchis, PhD – Outreach, Communications