High school students contribute to exoplanet discovery | Science & Technology

In a project aimed at democratizing science and fostering educational enrichment, a group of high school students from the Galaxy Explorer program at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California, made contributions to the field of exoplanet research. Researchers from the SETI Institute worked with the students to use backpack-sized digital smart telescopes provided by Unistellar; these young citizen scientists played a role in observing and confirming the nature of a warm and dense sub-Saturn planet, known as TIC 139270665 b, orbiting a metal-rich G2 star.

“By using new technology available with digital smart telescopes, we can take large steps towards the democratization of modern astronomy and education since the outcomes of initiatives like this can contribute to both astronomical research and education with easy-to-use and increasingly accessible technology,” said Dr. Dan Peluso, SETI Institute Affiliate. “In such endeavors, participants are ‘learning by doing’ and the doing is not some meaningless task. Instead, the ‘doing’ is the astronomical data collection, which in the past has been mostly left to professional astronomers and their observatories, or with highly skilled citizen astronomers with technical telescope setups. With TIC 139270665 b, our high school students had a challenging but meaningful task — capture the second transit of an exoplanet with a poorly understood orbital period. These students were engaged, inspired, and were easily able to setup and control the Unistellar telescopes with very little training. Citizen science opportunities like this and new technology with digital smart telescopes represent a fundamental shift and revolution for how we can approach and perform astronomical research moving forward.”

The discovery of TIC 139270665 b, the densest known warm sub-Saturn within the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) family, marks a milestone in exploring exoplanets. The initial clues of TIC 139270665 b’s…

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