March 8, 2010

Amateur Planet-Hunting via Web-based Observatories (WBO)

Because I live in a light-polluted area, the idea of renting remote telescopes to study or hunt exoplanets has been in my mind for almost 2 years. During that time, it was too expensive and the capabilities of those rental telescopes were not yet sufficient to hunt for exoplanets. But lately, the idea of renting telescopes for planet-hunting is slowly but surely moving closer to reality. The advancement of Web-Based Observatories (WBO) is an exciting event in the history of Astronomy, moreso for our case--in amateur planet-hunting.

There are many WBO's out there, but on this post I mention the exciting features of Global Rent-a-Scope (GRAS) which seems to me as the most appealing for amateur exoplanet hunters so far.

GRAS gives the option to write your own script and run it at a specific time in the future. This is perfect for training planet-hunters by generating their own light curves of known transiting exoplanets. Another great feature of GRAS that is potential for hunting exoplanets is their capability to do photometry via a software called Photometrica. Remember, the Kepler telescope uses the Photometry method!

And for the more advanced users, GRAS offers direct control on the CCD camera plus a host of other software and application such as MaximDL, The Sky, and FocusMax that let you directly control the telescope.

What's next? Perhaps adaptive optics might get incorporated into these amateur WBO's someday. And as CCD technology advances further, plus new technologies in astronomical instrumentations (like Astrophotonics) gets implemented onto larger but hopefully more affordable telescopes, then perhaps a hopeful exoplanet discovery via WBO is near the horizons!

Web-based Observatories (PDF Direct Link)
Global-Rent-a-Scope (GRAS)