Transiting Extrasolar Planets
The transit of an extrasolar planet occurs when the planet crosses in front of its parent star and this happen when their orbits are aligned with the observer's point of view. When a planet transits its host star, the brightness of the star drops by a tiny but detectable amount that depends on the relative sizes of the star and the planet, so that, if the radius of the star is known, one can determine the radius of the planet. When combined with the radial velocity method, the transit method enables to solve for mass as well, as the inclination of the orbit is determined by the geometry of the transit. Radius and mass together can provide important clues on the bulk composition of these planet, although this becomes increasingly difficult at smaller, Earth-like, objects, as the transit signature becomes more and more subtle.
Over the past several years many surveys aimed to detect such transits and nowadays about 1800 exoplanets are known providing invaluable knowledge on planetary systems outside our own Solar System.
- Follow-up of known but poorly characterised transiting exoplanets using small telescopes
- Development of fully automated pipelines for the reduction and extraction of optimised light curves from observations obtained with relatively small telescopes