BOYCE-ASTRO EXOPLORER PROGRAM
Boyce-Astro (BRIEF) is committed to an exoplanet science program that will encompass both confirmation and discovery. This is an evolving area of astronomy and BRIEF will endeavor to follow the opportunities that arise for research and student enrichment.
Our aim was to become qualified and proficient observers under the KELT and TESS programs. We received initial acceptance as part of both science teams. Dr. Scott Dixon has initiated these relationships for BRIEF and the San Diego Astronomy Association (SDAA). Our joint program started with SDAA’s TARO observatory and BRIEF’s Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) Education Partner program.
BRIEF started the student program in February, 2018. It is important that team members become professionally qualified before they observe, analyze and submit data to NASA and other science archives. To be on one of our teams, a student needs to have completed his / her DoubleSTARS paper and submit it to the JDSO or have successfully completed IntroSTARS.
A student may progress through a series of projects depending on their level of training and desire. We sponsor those who complete the introductory Exoplorer seminar to the AAVSO Exoplanet Observing course which can broaden their field of research. Because we use the transit method of exoplanet observation that produces a “light curve”, the same techniques can be applied to all sorts of research in in the many types of variable starsand even asteroid observations.We encourage students to pursue their passion..
CURRENT EXOPLORER PROGRAM AREAS
We now are participating in three exoplanet program areas:
- Exoplanet Watch: This NASA/JPL program began in 2019 to call upon the citizen science community to observe known exoplanets to refine their ephemeris – their predicted transits across the face of their host star. Students and team members participated in the beta testing program and BRIEF provided some transit observations for others to test. The program went “live” in mid-2021. Our introductory Exoplorer seminar prepares students for this program. Graduates become observers who gain observation credit for their observations with our observatories or their own. If desired they can move on to other program areas such as below.
- TESS: NASA and MIT developed this satellite observation system that was launched in 2018 with the goal to discover exoplanets in our solar neighborhood for future research. The highly successful program has been continued beyond its initial two-year mission. Step 1 in vetting the possible discoveries from the satellite is to make ground based observations of the candidates in greater detail. Boyce-Astro is a member of this SubGroup 1 and students and staff have contributed observations and analysis of a number of the candidates using our observatory resources. TESS requires professional level analysis and we endeavor to train our students to achieve that level of competence including sponsoring their AAVSO training.
- Circumbinary Exoplanets: Eclipsing binary stars orbit each other with clock like precision – unless another body’s gravitational field disturbs that regularity. An exoplanet orbiting the two binary stars can cause the timing of the eclipse of each star to vary slightly from their predicted timing. These transit timing variations (TTVs) can be used to mathematically infer the nature of that unseen exoplanet. We have been providing a student team to perform these observations using our observatories for San Diego State University and related parties.
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