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Amateur Astronomers Join Hunt for Exoplanets

10 Dec 2019, 12:14 UTC
Amateur Astronomers Join Hunt for Exoplanets
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An Australian amateur astronomer named Thiam-Guan Tan has made a name for himself in the realm of exoplanets. Tan participated in the discovery of an exoplanet that may orbit within its star’s habitable zone. LHS 1140 b is a super-Earth some 41 light years from Earth that orbits a red dwarf star. Back in September of 2016, with a number of professional observatories looking at the host star, Tan provided key data to help verify the existence of LHS 1140b.
“It was fortunate that I was able to catch a transit,” said Tan, a retired engineer with a 12-inch telescope who has also discovered several supernovae. He is quoted in a newspaper called The West Australian as saying “That night, the Centre for Astrophysics had lined up five other telescopes across Australia and Hawaii to observe but they were all clouded out.” Tan’s work with exoplanet transits continues, an illustration of the role that talented amateurs with affordable equipment (Tan’s telescope cost $15,000) can play.

Image: Thiam-Guan Tan with his telescope. Tan notes that “A couple of sources of encouragement were The Discovery of Extrasolar Planets by Backyard Astronomers (Castellano & Laughlin, 2002) and Bruce Gary’s book Exoplanet Observing ...

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