Armchair Planet Hunting
The Associated Press just published an article on how the Internet has facilitated an increasing number of collaborations between amateur and professional astronomers. The systemic project is one focus of the AP piece, and we’re seeing a jump in traffic as a result. If you are a first-time visitor to the site, welcome aboard!
There are several ways that you can use and participate in systemic. Our project home page is a weblog (updated fairly frequently) that gives an insider’s perspective on the latest developments and discoveries in the fast-moving fields of extrasolar planets and solar-system exploration. We write for a target audience of non-astronomers who are interested in astronomy. To get a flavor for the blog, keep reading the posts below, or have a look at a few of our past articles, such as our take on last Summer’s big “is Pluto a planet debate”, our exploration of what planets and galaxies really look like, or our series [1, 2, 3, 4] on the feasibility of detecting habitable terrestrial planets in the Alpha Centauri System.
You should see a set of links just to your right:
These links give you information that you can use to start participating in the actual discovery and characterization of extrasolar planets. (Despite the fact that we’re rocket scientists, we’ve been unable to consistently sweet-talk Microsoft IE into correctly displaying our site. On some versions of IE, you may have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page to see the links). The Downloadable Systemic Console is our Java-based software package that allows you to work with extrasolar planet data. The Systemic Backend is a collaborative environment that has the look and functionality of a social networking site. Registration and participation are free. The nearest well-characterized extrasolar planets (GJ 876 b, c and d) are 14.65 light years away, and so the news of useful modern innovations such as pop-ups and spyware hasn’t had time to propagate to those far-distant worlds. Hence the systemic backend is completely free of annoying ads!
One final note: there are two separate channels for registration on systemic. The first, accessed through the “login” tab on the site header above, is part of the WordPress package that runs the blog. Registration on the blog allows you to comment on our frontend posts. The second, accessed through the “backend” tab on the site header or the link to the right, gives you access to the collaborative php-based environment that constitutes the systemic backend. You can register for either or both, and you don’t need to give your real name or any real-world identifying information other than an e-mail address.
Tune in regularly for more news and updates.