August 12, 2009

Meteor-watching and Exogazing

Perseid MeteorMid-summer August marks the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. And it is an amazing sight to see meteors streaking across the starry night sky. Meteor-watching is a very exciting activity especially if you are seeing "shooting stars" at the rate of ~20 per hour. But did you know that there is another cool activity you can do while waiting for the next streak of meteor across the same patch of sky?
That activity is called Exogazing. It is the process of locating particular stars which is orbited by known exoplanets discovered by planet-hunters.
Did you know that in the field of view around the radiant of the Perseid Meteors, there are several stars that have known exoplanets orbiting around them? In fact, in the constellation Perseus, we currently have 4 exoplanets namely HD 17092 b, HD 23596 b, HD 16175 b and WASP-11b/HAT-P-10b. There may be more, and here's several among the surrounding areas, namely within the constellations Cassiopeia (HD 17156 b, HD 7924 b), Camelopardalis (HD 33564 b), Auriga (HD 49674 b) and Triangulum (HD 13189 b). Some meteors streaks, which seems to emanate from the radiant will actually pass across these constellations in your field of view (FOV). Check out this nice simulation of the Perseid Meteor Shower at Shadow and Substance.
So it'll be fun that while you are watching for meteors in the surrounding area of the Perseus Constellation, you can actually try to pinpoint stars with discovered exoplanets and then tell your friends that those stars have planets around them.
Be warned though, that the stars of these exoplanets are quite faint and you probably need binoculars to exogaze at some of them. It may limit your view but if one happens to streak across your FOV, the sight would be fantastic if you follow the meteor with wide-field binoculars.
With the "Perseid Exoplanets" mentioned in this post, you can make your own list, perhaps add some more from the constellations Taurus or Andromeda. Then choose which ones are the brightest and suitable targets to begin with.
Good luck with Meteor-watching, and have fun Exogazing. May you have clear skies!