# Astronomy 101 Lab: Hunt for Alien Worlds

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1 Name: Astronomy 101 Lab: Hunt for Alien Worlds Be prepared to make calculations in today s lab. Laptops will also be used for part of the lab, but you aren t required to bring your own. Pre-Lab Assignment: In class, we've talked a little about planets around other stars. In this lab, you'll use the tools that astronomers use to look for planets orbiting around other stars. Answer the following questions before coming to lab. A) Explain the Doppler effect for light. B) As an object moves toward you, does the wavelength of the light received increase or decrease? C) How can Doppler shift be used to find planets around other stars? D) Recall that the force of gravity is proportional to the product of the two masses attracting each other and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the objects. Is it easier to detect high mass planets or low mass planets using the Doppler shift? E) Is it easier to detect planets close to the star or far from the star using the Doppler shift? Introduction: Since ancient times, humans have wondered if we are alone in the Universe and if there are other places in our universe where other life could arise. In more recent times, we've identified Earth as just one of many planets that reside within the Solar System. But we quickly discovered that the other planets in the Solar System are quite different than Earth and are not friendly to our kind of life. Thus, the search for life was extended outward to look for Earth-like worlds that reside beyond the Solar System. For many years, the question of whether there were planets orbiting around other stars remained unanswered. All of this changed in 1992 when astronomer Alexander Wolszczan announced the discovery of several planets orbiting around a neutron star. Only three years later, astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz announced the discovery of a planet orbiting around a star like the Sun. In the intervening years, hundreds of planets have been detected. In this lab, you'll take a look at the current state of the planet search and you'll employ some of the same techniques that the astronomers have used to detect planets orbiting around other stars.

3 Table 1 Star Star Speed (m/s) Period (days) Orbital Size (AU) Planet Speed (km/s) Planet Mass (MJ) A B C D E Click on "period" to sort the catalog with increasing period. 4. Find out the actual name of the exoplanet orbiting around Star A by matching both the period and the mass. Now take a closer look at the exoplanets that have been discovered so far. Sort the catalog with increasing mass. Remember that Jovian planets are massive planets and Terrestrial planets are low-mass planets. 5. Jovian planets are greater than 0.03 MJ or 10 ME (Earth masses) and Terrestrial planets are less than 0.03 MJ. Based on these mass ranges, are most of the extrasolar planets in the Extrasolar Planet catalog Jovian planets or Terrestrial planets? Explain your answer. Our Solar System formation model predicts that Terrestrial planets should form near the Sun (orbital size, a, of less than 5 AU) and Jovian planets should form far from the Sun (orbital size of greater than 5 AU). 6. Do the five planetary systems you've analyzed agree or disagree with this prediction of the Solar System formation model? Explain your answer. Expand the list to every confirmed exoplanet by selecting "all planets" in the filter. 7. Which planet in the Extrasolar Planet catalog is most like Jupiter, considering both mass and orbital size (MJ = 1, orbital size = 5.2 AU)? (I recommend sorting by orbital size.) 8. When considering mass, which planet in the Extrasolar Planet catalog is most like Earth (0.003 MJ)? Consider now that these exoplanets were detected by the Doppler effect, measuring the gravitational pull of the planet on its parent star. With this in mind, answer the following questions. 9. What sizes of planetary orbits are harder to detect? (If you aren't sure, check your pre-lab.)

4 10. What sizes of exoplanets are harder to detect? (If you aren't sure, check your pre-lab.) B. Transit detection method: In March 2009, the Kepler spacecraft was launched. This mission was designed to use the transit method for finding planets orbiting around other stars. When the planet passes in front of the star, it will block some of the star's light. Kepler monitors the amount of light coming from the stars as a function of time, something that astronomers call the "light curve." From this information, they can determine the period of the orbit and estimate the mass of the planet. In the figure above, you can see a planet passing in front of its star and making the star appear dimmer for a short period. The brightness will decrease as the planet moves in front of the star, it will stay dimmer while the planet crosses the face of the star, and then the brightness will increase as the planet moves from in front of the star. The amount by which the star dims and the time it takes to go from maximum to minimum brightness tells us about the size of the planet. The time between the start of one eclipse and the start of the next one tells us the period of the planet's orbit. You will now analyze five plots labeled "Transit Star A" to "Transit Star E". These are plots of the brightness of the star as a function of time. They are on your table. Use them to fill in Table 2 on the next page. A. In the top frame for each star, measure the period using the time between when the planet begins to eclipse the star to when it begins to eclipse the star the next time. B. Use the chart to convert period to orbital size. C. Use the equation given in the Doppler effect section to calculate the planet's speed. D. In the bottom frame for each star, measure the amount of time it takes for the star to go from full brightness to minimum brightness as the planet begins to eclipse it. (Crossing Time) E. Use the following equation to calculate the size (compared to Jupiter's radius) of the planet: Planet Size (R J ) = Planet Speed Crossing Time 142,984

5 Table 2 Star Period (days) Orbital Size (AU) Planet Speed (km/s) Crossing Time (s) Planet Size (RJ) A B C D E As you can see, we get slightly different information from the transit method than from the Doppler effect method. Rather than directly obtaining the mass of the planet, we obtain the size of the planet instead. From there, if we want to know how massive the planet is, we need to make an assumption about the planet's composition. For the next few questions, use the planet in Table 2 with the smallest planet size. If we assume that the smallest planet is a Jovian world with Jupiter's density of 1,330 kg/m 3, we can convert the planet size to a mass in Jovian masses (MJ). 11. Find the mass of the planet in Jovian masses by calculating 1.07 (planet size) 3. If we assume that the smallest planet is a Terrestrial world with Earth's density of 5,500 kg/m 3, we can convert the planet size to a mass in Earth masses (ME). 12. Find the mass of the planet in Earth masses by calculating 1,403 (planet size) Recall that the mass division between Terrestrial and Jovian worlds is roughly 0.03 MJ or 10 ME. Based on your answers to questions 11 and 12, do you think that this world is more likely a rocky Terrestrial world or a gaseous Jovian world? Explain your answer. 14. If you could get the spectrum of this planet's atmosphere, which gases would tell you if it was a Terrestrial world or a Jovian world? What type of spectrum would show evidence of this? 15. In a paragraph with no less than 5 sentences, make an educated guess about the future of the search for extrasolar planets. How many planets will be discovered by the year 2040? Will more planets ultimately be detected by the Doppler shift method or by the Transit method? What are the odds of finding a planet that has both a similar mass and orbit to Earth? Put your response on the next page.

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