Monday, July 24, 2017

Pale Red Dot Calls for Public to Collaborate

The Pale Red Dot team is coasting off the success of their discovery last year of a planet in the Proxima Centauri system system by casting its net even wider as the Red Dots campaign.

Whereas Pale Red Dot focused just on Proxima Centauri, Red Dots is looking toward Barnard’s Star and Ross 154 as well. These three stars will be held up to intense scrutiny by the team in the hunt for planets — or in the case of Proxima, additional planets.

Barnard’s Star has been a popular target since the 1963 announcement by Swarthmore College professor Peter van de Kamp of a Jupiter-mass planet around it. His observations ended up discredited, as the telescope he used at Sproul Observatory had a flaw that caused some stars to appear to “wobble” when they were doing no such thing.

“We are inviting anyone willing to collaborate to observe the stars’ brightnesses and to join our campaign,” Mikko Tuomi, a European Southern Observatory astronomer and Red Dots scientist, said in an email. “We have already 1,700 brightness observations of Ross 154 from five different observers and as many as 2,500 brightness observations of Barnard’s star from as many as nine observers (Barnard’s star is on the northern sky, so more accessible for US and European observers) using as many independent telescopes helping us in studying the variability of these stars in detail.”


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