Proposal for a BAA Exoplanets Section

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  • #573990
    Roger Dymock
    Participant

    The following proposal will be discussed by the BAA Council at their 2018 May 30th meeting. If this is of interest to you could you please contact me with any thoughts you may have. 

    Is it time for a BAA Exoplanet Section ?

     

    Introduction

     

    This is a relatively new field in which the BAA ought to have a presence and forming an Exoplanet Section would achieve this. There are a number of opportunities for both practical amateur involvement and for armchair enthusiasts.  

     

    Potential section objectives

     

    Foster interests in all aspects of exoplanets by advising members of; latest developments, on-line courses, meetings, resources via a regular newsletter and the section’s website

     

    Encourage and provide support for practical projects both amateur and pro-am and promote a greater understanding of exoplanet discoveries and properties. For example;

     

    Practical

              Transit imaging

              On-line analysis of transit lightcurves to search for exoplanets

              Participation in pro-am projects (e.g. Project Twinkle)

     

    Theoretical

              Keeping up to date on exoplanets in general

              Knowledge of ground and space-based observatories and technology

              Understanding astrobiology (by on-line courses for example)

     

    Establishing links with related organisations

              UK Centre for Astrobiology

              UK Exoplanet Community

              Centre for Exoplanet Science

              SETI Institute

              Planetary Society

              British Interplanetary Society

     

    Education and outreach

              Awareness of courses (mostly on-line)

              Schools projects relating to transit lightcurve interpretation

     

    Request to Council

     

    I have been in touch with a number of BAA members and there is support for forming an Exoplanet section. In order to ascertain the views of the membership at large I would like to circulate a proposal for a section via the Newsletter. Based on comments made I would then return to Council for a final decision.

     

     

    Roger Dymock

    roger.dymock@ntlworld.com

     

    #579274
    Tony Rodda
    Participant

    Another photometry application put to good use and within amateur capabilities too.

    There should be good pro-am citizen science opportunities.

    #579296
    Andy Wilson
    Keymaster

    Hi Roger,

    That is an interesting idea. It also occurs to me whether exoplanets might be a good fit within the Variable Star Section? I’m not sure if this is a controversial idea, perhaps as a ‘subsection’? I suggest this as the techniques are the same, since exoplanets are detected via their influence on their host star, causing it to vary in magnitude or radial velocity. As I understand it, amateurs have been able to detect previously discovered exoplanets via both the transit and radial velocity methods, though I think only a handful are within reach of amateur equipment. If there is a new Section, then I think it would be good to have close ties with the Variable Star Section.

    Perhaps there are members who have or are actively making observations of exoplanets who could make their views known? Though you may have been in touch with these members.

    It is a topic that captures the imagination, so I can see the benefits of the BAA establishing some kind of presence.

    Best wishes,
    Andy

    #579298
    Dave Hilton
    Participant

    i think an exoplanet section is actually quite an important development as this new field is rapidly expanding and of great interest to astronomers. I don’t personally think tying it in with variable stars is particularly useful because there are other detection techniques apart from transits, and the study of exoplanets is a huge subject area in its own right which could then eclipse the variable star posts of that section. Furthermore some of my acquaintances through working with Kepler data have been discussing possible detection of exomoons and direct imaging of exoplanets. I think this is a new and exciting phase in astronomy and I would fully support a dedicated Exoplanet section.

    #579324
    Paul Leyland
    Participant

    An excellent idea in my opinion.

    A decent number of exoplanet transits are in range of amateur equipment, as indicated by the continuing acknowledgements by Tabby Boyajian et al. to AAVSO observers.  Another example is

    which can  be found at  http://www.tacandeobservatory.com/p/act.html

    As noted, it is surely possible for amateurs to discover new exoplanets by the transit method.  All you need is dedication, good fortune and to be able to perform photometry to an accuracy of 0.003 magnitudes or better.  Despite the attention of the professionals, Kepler has only examined a small fraction of the sky and GAIA makes only a few dozen observations (at best) of any given star.

    Disclaimer: I’ve a vested interest in the link given above because there’s a fair chance I’ll be purchasing the Tacande Observatory.

    #579325
    Gary Poyner
    Participant

    “That is an interesting idea. It also occurs to me whether exoplanets might be a good fit within the Variable Star Section?  I’m not sure if this is a controversial idea, perhaps as a ‘subsection’?

    Mildly controversial Andy. Whilst I think that a new section is an excellent idea, IMO the VSS have enough to think about 😉

    Gary

    #579326
    Robin Leadbeater
    Participant

    Stan Waterman’s Project Cygnus which has been running for many years is an impressive example of an amateur exoplanet/variable star survey of course. No confirmed exoplanets found though as far as I know.

    http://www.stanwaterman.co.uk/variablestars/

    https://www.britastro.org/vss/Stan%20Waterman%20Winchester%202017.pdf

    Robin

    #579327
    Roger Dymock
    Participant

    Good afternoon all,

    The amount of support for an Exoplanet Section far exceeds what I expected. It appears that quite a number of BAA members are already making exoplanet observations and others have a wider interest (e.g. Zooniverse projects, Astrobiology, etc) which bodes well for the future of the Section (assuming it gets the ‘Go for launch’).

    I do believe that we need a separate section rather than be embedded in the ARPS or VSS but we shall see. If any of you feel like emailing the BAA President (Callum Potter) with your views please do so. 

    I will catch up on all the posts/emails in detail in a couple of weeks when we have finished decorating. I would have liked an exoplanet mural on one wall but the proposal was tied on votes and the ‘Chairperson’s’ casting vote ditched the idea.

    Regards

      

    #579328
    Steve Bosley
    Participant

    I have not personally tried this but here at Hampshire Astronomical Group we already offer “Observation of Transiting Exoplanet” as a project option to University of Portsmouth final year students, so giving the subject a higher profile within the BAA sounds like an excellent idea.

    Steve

    #579331
    Peta Bosley
    Participant

    I would second Roger’s comments that include Astrobiology as Exoplanet discovery may lead to the signatures of life. As such, these two DO belong together, but Astrobiology can’t really fit with Variable Stars, so let’s leave the VSS as a separate option.

    #579365
    Roger Dymock
    Participant

    In view of the support received I have modified my proposal to request that the section be set up without any further polling of BAA members (see last paragraph of revised proposal below)

    Is it time for a BAA Exoplanet Section ?

     

    (Revised proposal)

     

    Introduction

     

    This is a relatively new field in which the BAA ought to have a presence and forming an Exoplanet Section would achieve this. There are a number of opportunities for both practical amateur involvement and for armchair enthusiasts.  

     

    Potential section objectives

     

    Foster interests in all aspects of exoplanets by advising members of; latest developments, on-line courses, meetings, resources via a regular newsletter and the section’s website

     

    Encourage and provide support for practical projects both amateur and pro-am and promote a greater understanding of exoplanet discoveries and properties. For example;

     

    Practical

              Transit imaging

              On-line analysis of transit lightcurves to search for exoplanets

              Participation in pro-am projects (e.g. Project Twinkle)

     

    Theoretical

              Keeping up to date on exoplanets in general

              Knowledge of ground and space-based observatories and technology

              Understanding astrobiology (by on-line courses for example)

     

    Establishing links with related organisations

              UK Centre for Astrobiology

              UK Exoplanet Community

              Centre for Exoplanet Science

              SETI Institute

              Planetary Society

              British Interplanetary Society

     

    Education and outreach

              Awareness of courses (mostly on-line)

              Schools projects relating to transit lightcurve interpretation

     

    Request to Council

     

    Having been in touch with a number of BAA members I find that there is considerable support for forming an Exoplanet section, in fact some members are already engaged in exoplanet observations. I therefore request that Council give serious consideration to forming such a section.

     

    Roger Dymock

    roger.dymock@ntlworld.com

    #579367
    Andy Wilson
    Keymaster

    Hi Roger,

    I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by the number of BAA members already involved with exoplanet observations. So I agree this does appear to be the right time for a new Section.

    Best wishes,

    Andy

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