Independent Project Proposal


    Detecting Exoplanets with Periodic Variation of Transiting Binary Star Systems

    Mailani Neal

    Purpose: To detect exoplanets orbiting a star in a binary star system based on variations of transit times.

    Measurements: In order to detect these planets, I will measure what time the transits occur and calculate the periodic transit time differences, if any occur.

    Procedure Overview: Using the Byrne Observatory at Sedgwick Reserve to make multiple observations of the target star systems, I will calculate the time of transits occurring and time differences of the star transits. The observation files are given to me in zip file form that can be uploaded by using the application AstroImageJ. This application uses photometric measurements of light intensity to plot a light curve graph of apparent magnitude versus time.

    Tools/Resources Needed: This project will require observation time with the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, which I am able to request through BJ Fulton (UH Mānoa, IfA) and Dr. James Armstrong (UH Maui, IfA). I will also be using my own laptop with the AstroImageJ photometry application to process the telescope observations.

    Impact: The way that my work would be an impact locally is that I have been a resident of Big Island my entire life, I am Native Hawaiian, and I am a woman. To prove that someone with that background can work in the field of Physics and Astronomy is definitely a great aspect for the business with the Mauna Kea observatories to create a connection to the community. Globally, my project would benefit our knowledge of the universe and could possibly start a new planet detection method. I hope that my project will inspire other HPA students interested in physics and astronomy to start their own projects to gain the knowledge, curiosity, and experience to the life of being a scientist.

    Legacy: By successfully detecting a planet that orbits a star in a binary star system, it would expand our knowledge of the possibility of planets forming in various environments in the universe. It also adds to our theories of how planets form due to star conditions. Thus, we will be able to use this knowledge to reflect and hypothesize how our own habitable planet formed in our star system in order to specify the conditions necessary to identify in the search for possibly habitable, or already inhabited, planets.