Determining the Exoplanet Detection Capabilities via the Transit Method of the CWU 0.6-m Telescope



Josh McRae

Faculty Mentor(s)

Cassandra Fallscheer (Physics)


With the growth of astrophysics research surrounding extrasolar planets, determining the detection capabilities of the Central Washington University Discovery Hall Observatory’s 0.6-m Telescope will grant students a greater understanding of the research opportunities at CWU for this field. Utilizing the following stellar systems with confirmed extra-solar planets: HAT-P-18, HAT-P-32, and Kepler-20, images of these systems and their associated star field were captured. Stellar magnitudes of each of the three parent stars in this study were measured over 11 nights from 1 October 2020 through 12 March 2021. The resulting light curves are consistent with the transit depth and transit length associated with the exoplanets HAT-P-32b and Kepler-20c indicating possible detection of these exoplanets. The next steps of this project are the detailed analysis and utilization of that analysis to determine a theoretical limit for how small an extrasolar planet can be before it’s undetectable by the 0.6m telescope.

Keywords: Astronomy, Exoplanets, Detection


4 thoughts on “Determining the Exoplanet Detection Capabilities via the Transit Method of the CWU 0.6-m Telescope”

  1. Hi Josh! Cool project! I have two questions:
    1) You described a little in your presentation, but what really drove your choice in known exoplanets to potentially observe? There are a lot of confirmed exoplanets out there! What were your criteria for narrowing your targets?
    2) What was the most challenging aspect of trying to make these observations? Do you have a good idea about what the main sources or errors are or what you have to make sure to do really well to see a transit?

  2. First question is how do you rightfully come to the assumption that there are no significant forces of gravity acting on the system from the outside? Or that it is a single star system? I learned that one of them ended up being a binary star system so how you would make a better guess next time?
    Second question: How did you know when the right time to observe was and that you were going to capture the exoplanets in transit? Or is this why the project had to be held over so many months because you didn’t know and were just hoping to catch some of them in transit?
    I know how hard a voice-over can be and this one was done extremely well! I also appreciate how much information you were able to pack into such a short time. Awesome presentation Josh!

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