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Astronomical meetings June 3, 2008

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy.
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One of the main guilty pleasures of a meeting like this is the ability for me to be a non-expert, to be a student again. My field of expertise is General Relativity… neutron stars, black hole. But I’m also in charge of the observatory at Eastern Illinois University. I’m always looking for things for my students to do….and that I can learn. One of the plenary talks was on the search for new planets around other stars by looking tor transits, where the planets pass in front of the star causing a dip in the brightness. Rare because the alignment of our eye has to be close to the plane of the planet’s orbit.

If you would form a sphere of distance observers around the sun and Jupiter only about .1% would see Jupiter pass in front of the sun. You have to search for a lot of planets (and get many false positives from eclipsing stars not eclipsing planets). This technique is new enough that in the next couple of years they will have around 100 new planets around other stars using it.

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