Exoplanets

Use your telescope to confirm the existence of newly discovered worlds


Join professional astronomers and participate in discovering and characterizing some of the most interesting exoplanets in our galaxy!

These exoplanets, mainly gas giants like Jupiter that were discovered with TESS, NASA’s current planet hunting mission, need your help. Astronomers don’t have enough information to fully understand the orbits of these planets. In most cases, this is because TESS or other NASA missions haven’t had many chances to catch them transiting, or passing in front of, their star. That’s where you come in! Planets like this take a long time to orbit and transit their star; therefore, due to the rising Sun, a single Earth-bound telescope will not be able to see the star’s light dim and return as the planet completes its transit. Only a network of people around the world, working to observe the same target, will be able to catch a full transit for these planets. With your help, scientists can understand the orbits and conditions of these foreign worlds.


Featured Exoplanet Transit for November 2022

Catch the Wandering Transit of a Super-Puff Planet

This November 12-14, citizen astronomers have a chance to observe a cool “super-puff” exoplanet, a gas giant with a uniquely low density. This planet, the outermost planet in a family of five, is almost the size of Jupiter with only a fraction of its mass.

Exoplanet HIP-41378 f was first observed by NASA’s Kepler Mission in 2016. Although a single transit was observed by Kepler, and later the Hubble Space Telescope, there are still plenty of mysteries to be solved. For example, the predicted timing of its transits slightly disagree with what astronomers actually observe. These differences are called “transit timing variations,” and may indicate the presence of an exo-moon or gravitational tugs from this planet’s siblings.

The exoplanet HIP-41378 f has a longer year, or period, than Earth at 542 days. Therefore, it will take approximately 18 hours to transit its host star. With an event this long, only a network of people around the world, working to observe the same transit, will be able to catch the dimming and brightening of the planet’s sun. If successful, the results from this campaign could merit observations from JWST.

Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

When you’re ready to get started, go to the Pick your Target page to learn more or click this Observation Link from your phone or tablet to begin observing.


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 – Exoplanets Co-Lead, Pipeline Development, Observation Planning
Lauren Sgro, PhD – Data Analysis, Communications
Franck Marchis, PhD – Outreach, Communications