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Exoplanet Astronomy

eso_planetIn short, it is the study of worlds beyond our solar system. By using some of the best telescopes both on Earth and in space, we can learn incredible  new things about planets orbiting distant stars. From what exists in their atmospheres to how many might be out there.

The research area of my PhD is the detection of new planets using the transit method. This involves monitoring hundreds of thousands of stars, night in, night out, looking for the tiny decrease in light that occurs when a planet passes between us and it’s star. I am using data from one such survey, the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) and Kepler’s secondary mission (K2), and creating new methods to find longer-period planets than have previously been detected.

If that tickles your fancy, check out more (hopefully) interesting posts in my blog, Lost In Transits.

Lost in Transits: recent posts

EPIC-1166 b: a Neptune-mass planet with Earth-like density

Single Transit Candidates from K2

Looking for Life – Part I

Southern Skies Above La Silla

Wasp Planets… As Pokemon: A Chrome App

Kapetyn b – Another One Bites the Interstellar Dust

Shifting Eclipses – K2′s Second Multi-planet System

A History Of Planet Detection in 60 Seconds

Lunar Mission One – Can It Succeed?

An Open Letter to the RAS – The Writings of Adrian Berry

‘Sound Science’ Radio Show

Frequently Asked Questions.

Gliese 581d is an ex-planet

Goldilocks Worlds: An Infographic

More… 

News Updates

09/2015 – Somehow, too many pub quizzes got me onto the 2015/2016 series of University Challenge which airs this autumn. Stay tuned…

8/07/2015 – Presented my work at the UK’s National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales. My talk abstract can be found here.

12/06/2015 – I’m back in Chile to observe on the Swiss Telescope. This time it’s deepest darkest winter though, so the nights are long and lots of work!

15/05/2015 – PhD Science Communication course. This included recording a radio show at BBC Warwickshire, writing press releases and article summaries and even tv interviews. Very useful!

05/04/2015 – I spent the last week as resident astronomer on the Astrotweeps twitter account. You can read my many updates on this storify, including discussions on WASP, NGTS, exo-moons, alien life and a whole lot more.

01/04/2015 – Gave my first talk at a proper conference, at the UK Exoplanet Community meeting. I’m told it went well. Plus I won a pint by saying “that’s no moon”!

14/01/2015 – I’m the guest on the Sound Science radio show at the Warwick Student Radio tomorrow. Will post the programme here when it becomes available online!

21/11/2014 – I’ve arrived in La Silla Observatory, Chile! I’m here to observe on the Swiss telescope for 2 weeks. This 1.2m telescope has one of the most precise spectrographs in the world (Coralie), which makes it perfect to find planets via the radial velocity method. I’ll let you know what I discover!

 03/11/2014 – I have been selected as one of five contestants in the I’m A Scientist space zone. Students from across the UK will be sending questions our way for the next few weeks and whoever is voted to have answered the best, wins! UPDATE – I came second! Not too shabby, especially considering I’ve been here in Chile for the last week and unable to answer many questions at all!

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  1. Great website Hugh. You certainly chose the right branch of astronomy. Historic things are going to happen in this area over the next 20 years or so of your career, culminating in a space ELT/coronagraph and star shade if our US friends get their way. Plans afoot already. Plenty of great technology and discoveries meantime though , almost certainly through transit based spectrophotometry. MIT expects big things of TESS, even before Jerome Leconte’s recent findings on non orbital synchronisation in compact planetary systems round small stars and Houdebine’s work on “calm” chromosphere , distributed Dynamo M3 dwarfs. Lots of HBZ planetary transits too analyse in that group! Great piece on “Astrobites” recently on preparing the JWST for exoplanet characterisation .WFIRST hoping to synergise with Gaia for astrometric determination of nearby Earth candidates on top of direct imaging and microlensing. All segueing nicely into your boss’ PLATO. All the best. Ashley, now Prof Baldwin.

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