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 May 2023:
Observation dates: 22 May – 23 May
We need your help investigating the orbit of TIC 393818343.01, a potential hot Jupiter in the making!
The giant planet TIC 393818343.01 was first discovered to transit its host star by citizen astronomers combing through data from NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite). They discovered the single transit of this planet, shown in the figure above. However, only this one transit signature has ever been observed – so scientists need more data to find out what this exoplanet is all about!
The initial transit, combined with radial velocity data – which shows how the host star wiggles under the influence of the planet – indicate that this is a gas giant that orbits its star every 16 days, making it a “warm Jupiter.” But it may not stay warm for long: this exoplanet has a very eccentric, or oblong, orbit that brings it very close to its star. So astronomers think it may be nestling in closer as its orbit becomes more circular, leading it to eventually become a “hot Jupiter.” To know for certain, astronomers need your help catching 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