Updated proposal for an Exoplanet Section

Forums Exoplanets Updated proposal for an Exoplanet Section

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    Roger Dymock

    I was asked by the BAA President, Callum Potter, to add some further explanation as to why we should have a section rather than a sub-section of an existing one. My final proposal to the BAA Council to be discussed at their May 30th meeting is given below. 

    Is it time for a BAA Exoplanet Section ?


    (Version 3 – 2018 May 13)




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


    A number of BAA members have experience of exoplanet transit imaging and a paper, ‘The quest for stable circumbinary companions to post-common envelope sdB eclipsing binaries’ by D. Pulley, G. Faillace, D. Smith, A. Watkins and S von Harrach has been published in ‘Astronomy and Astrophysics’. Currently between 20 and 30 members (and a few non-members) have expressed an interest in or support for this proposal.


    However as mentioned below there is more to exoplanets than imaging and I believe that widening the scope of this activity will attract more members and non-members. Those members already skilled in photometry may welcome the additional challenge of producing transit light curves.


    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. The list is considerable and it will take some time to implement all aspects supporting the need for a dedicated section.



              Transit imaging

              Gravitational microlensing follow-up

              Spectroscopy – radial velocity measurements

              Participation in pro-am projects e.g.

    o    Atmospheric Remote Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (ARIEL)

    o   Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

              Infrared Exoplanet Large survey)

              Citizen science on-line analysis of transit lightcurves to search for exoplanets

              Search for extraterrestrial intelligence

    o   SETI@Home – use of home PCs to scan data from radio telescopes

    o   Radio telescopes – Project Argus looking for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence



              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)

              Why we need to leave Earth – a multi-planet species


    Education and outreach

              Awareness of courses (mostly on-line)

              Further education projects relating to transit light curves. My local society, Hampshire Astronomical Group, work with Portsmouth University students to obtain and analyse light curves and this could be a template for such projects

              Presentations to local astronomical societies


    Establishing links with related organisations

              UK Exoplanet Community

              Centre for Exoplanet Science

              UK Centre for Astrobiology

              Planetary Society

              British Interplanetary Society

              SETI Institute


    Request to Council


    As mentioned earlier I find that there is considerable support for forming an Exoplanet Section. I do not believe that a group within a section would give this activity the visibility it needs and deserves to let members and the wider astronomical community know we are taking this matter seriously.


    Comparison has been made with spectroscopy in that a group, possibly within an existing section, be formed. However, I would suggest that spectroscopy is a tool that can be used by other sections whereas Exoplanets are a unique area more equivalent to the Sun, Moon or Jupiter for example and thus deserving of their own section.  In addition, the wide range of potential projects would lead to a considerable increase in workload for an existing section and its director.


    I therefore request that Council give serious consideration to forming a section rather than a group within an existing section.

    Dr Paul Leyland

    Could you post a brief report on how this proposal was received please?

    Roger Dymock

    Good afternoon everyone,

    I have not yet had a reply but as soon as I do I will pass it on via this forum. I guess I am being a little impatient but I would have hoped, and liked, to have had a result one way or the other by now.


    Grant Privett

    No one likes writing up meeting minutes quickly 🙂

    Actually, I have been thinking (try not to be shocked). The use of high precision photometry required for exo-planets, the high precision astrometry required for comets and the detailed spectroscopy of supernovae moves amateurs into situations where they are very much working at a level previously associated with professionals. So perhaps, whether or not the exo-planet section appears, the BAA needs to upgrade its pro-amateur collaboration efforts and perhaps focus a bit more effort on that to ensure those with the skills and inclination will be in demand and actively engaged.

    Roger Dymock

    Couldn’t agree more and it is something the BAA is very keen on. When he was President Jeremy Shears had an article to that effect published in the RAS magazine ‘Astronomy and Geophysics’. 

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