Are you jealous of Kepler and the thousands of planets it's discovered? If so, I have some pretty exciting news for you. The cost to discover an exoplanet just dropped from $600 million to practically free. That's right - you can now discover new planets right from your backyard! All you need is a small telescope, a cheap camera and some free software that was just released by NASA.
You'll be using the transit method of exoplanet detection, the same technique used by the Kepler mission. This method works by monitoring a star's (or stars') brightness over time. If a planet is present and oriented correctly, it will pass in front of the star as it orbits. When this happens, the star will appear to dim temporarily. By measuring this change, we can infer the presence and size of a planet.
Want to participate? Here's what you'll need:
- A small telescope on an equatorial mount
- A CCD imager, like the $60 Orion StarShoot II
- A computer loaded with NASA's free OSCAAR software
Pick a patch of sky and go at it. Who knows? You could be the next person to discover a groundbreaking new planet!