Astro Seminar: Five Years of Kentucky-Based High-Precision Photometric Observations for the Discovery and Characterization of Transiting Exoplanets

10/08/2015 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s): 
Karen Collins (Vanderbilt University)

The discovery of over 1000 planets orbiting stars other than the Sun (i.e. exoplanets) in the past 20 years has revolutionized our theories of planetary system formation and evolution. Although a large number of planets are now known, only ~25 transit stars bright enough to enable detailed characterization of the planetary system. As part of my graduate research at the University of Louisville, I conducted five years of photometric observations from Moore observatory, located just outside Louisville, Kentucky, resulting in the high-precision characterization of known and newly discovered bright exoplanetary systems. I will discuss the instrumentation and methods used to optimize the precision of the collected data, and present a software package, AstroImageJ, that was developed to streamline and optimize the data reduction process. The results of two long-term transit timing variation (TTV) studies will be presented, along with the results of a measurement of sodium in the atmosphere of a well known exoplanet. Finally, I will describe the Kilo-degree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) transit survey, present an overview of the KELT discovered planets, and highlight the importance of these discoveries on exoplanet science.

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