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Utilizing Small Telescopes Operated by Citizen Scientists for Transiting Exoplanet Follow-up

Zellem, Robert T. and Pearson, Kyle A. and Blaser, Ethan and Fowler, Martin and Ciardi, David R. and Biferno, Anya and Massey, Bob and Marchis, Franck and Baer, Robert and Ball, Conley and Chasin, Mike and Conley, Mike and Dixon, Scott and Fletcher, Elizabeth and Hernandez, Saneyda and Nair, Sujay and Perian, Quinn and Sienkiewicz, Frank and Tock, Kalée and Vijayakumar, Vivek and Swain, Mark R. and Roudier, Gael M. and Bryden, Geoffrey and Conti, Dennis M. and Hill, Dolores H. and Hergenrother, Carl W. and Dussault, Mary and Kane, Stephen R. and Fitzgerald, Michael and Boyce, Pat and Peticolas, Laura and Gee, Wilfred and Cominsky, Lynn and Zimmerman-Brachman, Rachel and Smith, Denise and Creech-Eakman, Michelle J. and Engelke, John and Iturralde, Alexandra and Dragomir, Diana and Jovanovic, Nemanja and Lawton, Brandon and Arbouch, Emmanuel and Kuchner, Marc and Malvache, Arnaud (2020) Utilizing Small Telescopes Operated by Citizen Scientists for Transiting Exoplanet Follow-up. Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 132 (1011). Art. No. 054401. ISSN 0004-6280. doi:10.1088/1538-3873/ab7ee7.

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Due to the efforts by numerous ground-based surveys and NASA's Kepler and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of transiting exoplanets ideal for atmospheric characterization via spectroscopy with large platforms such as James Webb Space Telescope and ARIEL. However their next predicted mid-transit time could become so increasingly uncertain over time that significant overhead would be required to ensure the detection of the entire transit. As a result, follow-up observations to characterize these exoplanetary atmospheres would require less-efficient use of an observatory's time—which is an issue for large platforms where minimizing observing overheads is a necessity. Here we demonstrate the power of citizen scientists operating smaller observatories (≤1 m) to keep ephemerides "fresh," defined here as when the 1σ uncertainty in the mid-transit time is less than half the transit duration. We advocate for the creation of a community-wide effort to perform ephemeris maintenance on transiting exoplanets by citizen scientists. Such observations can be conducted with even a 6 inch telescope, which has the potential to save up to ~10,000 days for a 1000-planet survey. Based on a preliminary analysis of 14 transits from a single 6 inch MicroObservatory telescope, we empirically estimate the ability of small telescopes to benefit the community. Observations with a small-telescope network operated by citizen scientists are capable of resolving stellar blends to within 5''/pixel, can follow-up long period transits in short-baseline TESS fields, monitor epoch-to-epoch stellar variability at a precision 0.67% ± 0.12% for a 11.3 V-mag star, and search for new planets or constrain the masses of known planets with transit timing variations greater than two minutes.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Zellem, Robert T.0000-0001-7547-0398
Pearson, Kyle A.0000-0002-5785-9073
Ciardi, David R.0000-0002-5741-3047
Marchis, Franck0000-0001-7016-7277
Swain, Mark R.0000-0002-0919-4468
Roudier, Gael M.0000-0002-7402-7797
Dussault, Mary0000-0002-8625-6474
Kane, Stephen R.0000-0002-7084-0529
Gee, Wilfred0000-0002-2931-7605
Cominsky, Lynn0000-0003-2073-1065
Smith, Denise0000-0001-6807-5015
Dragomir, Diana0000-0003-2313-467X
Lawton, Brandon0000-0002-5972-9555
Kuchner, Marc0000-0002-2387-5489
Additional Information:© 2020. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Received 2019 September 26; accepted 2020 March 11; published 2020 April 8. Part of the research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Copyright 2020. All rights reserved. We thank the JPL Exoplanet Science Initiative for partial support of this work. This material is based upon work supported by NASA under cooperative agreement award number NNX16AC65A. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This research has made use of the NASA Exoplanet Archive, which is operated by the California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under the Exoplanet Exploration Program. This research has made use of the SIMBAD database, operated at CDS, Strasbourg, France. R.T.Z. would like to thank Padi Boyd, Knicole Colon, Sam Halverson, Stella Kafka, Tiffany Kataria, David Latham, and Kevin Stevenson for their helpful discussions. D. Dragomir acknowledges support provided by NASA through Hubble Fellowship grant HST-HF2-51372.001-A awarded by the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., for NASA, under contract NAS5-26555.
Group:Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASA Hubble FellowshipHST-HF2-51372.001-A
Subject Keywords:techniques: photometric – surveys – ephemerides – planets and satellites: detection
Issue or Number:1011
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200409-115738490
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Robert T. Zellem et al 2020 PASP 132 054401
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:102445
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:10 Apr 2020 15:06
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:12

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