There is a line from Disney's Beauty and the Beast that my dad often teases me about in an attempt to get me to read more novels instead of things like manga:
Gaston: "How can you read this? There's no pictures!"Well, if you made it through my first post, which was void of graphics - congratulations, because you have done what Gaston deemed unbelievable.
However, because I think pictures can serve as great accompaniment, I present you with multiple ones in this post, beginning with this:
I am a maintainer of exoplanets.org, an interactive database of exoplanets with which you can generate plots as well as tables, containing each planet's orbital parameters and more. All of the planets should be published in peer-reviewed journals. Most of them are discovered with the radial velocity method.
While small compared to their star (or stars!), planets have their way of making their presence known. Discoveries with transits contribute to a smaller but important portion of the population. The transit of a planet in front of its star happens in our own solar system's front yard:
The next Venus transit occurs in June 2012, so make sure you won't miss it, since the one following that will not be until over a century later.
Astronomers have developed many ways of detecting exoplanets, but exoplanets.org mainly records those found with the two previously described. When a new planet has been submitted to a journal, I enter it into our database structure, the Exoplanet Orbit Database (EOD). Once it is published, Dr. Wright will allow it to make its debut on our website. In the mean time, I check papers that discuss existing planets for updated parameters; if the values they offer are better, I update our structure. Up to now, since starting in Fall 2010, I have entered over 165 planets, and many of them have made their way to the site.
Eunkyu Han, as Dr. Wright introduced her to Dr. David Charbonneau before last Wednesday's astronomy department colloquium, is the "other half of exoplanets.org." When I first joined the team, she guided me through the workings of the database. She also adds and updates planets; at times, many planets are announced at once, and we share the load for an effective and quick addition process.
Before last Wednesday's colloquium, we had already been familiar with Dr. Charbonneau's work from entering some of the planets he discovered. We constantly browse through papers, and it does not take long to start recognizing names.
The exoplanets field is not large,
and it is still young, being just a few years older than I am.
As you can see, the growth of discoveries is explosive. Like my astronomy professor says, "Never underestimate the power of the exponential," and, with time, we will continue to see where this trend takes us.