#FaveAstroPlot : Exoplanet transits

I won't be as verbose this time but it's still something that I find just as interesting. The in thing about astronomy at the moment is exoplanets. Everyone talks about them, everyone wants to know if there's another planet out there like earth and EVERYONE wants to know if there is alien life somewhere else in this universe. What I find more interesting is the science behind how exoplanets are found and characterized.

This is a tweet by Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy fame (if you don't already follow him on twitter, you definitely should!). It is a plot of intensity or brightness of a central star as a function of time. As mentioned on the x-axis, over the course of ~4 hours, the brightness of a star fell to 0.985 times it's prior brightness and then went back to normal. This dip in brightness is because this star is being eclipsed by a planet that is revolving around it (and luckily, in the plane of sight!). Astronomers were able to distinguish this drop of intensity with other types of drops in intensity such as when a star's brightness intrinsically varies periodically.

Note the fact that the star's brightness fell to 0.985 times that of it's normal brightness due to the exoplanet transit. I'd like to calculate by how much normal tube lights flicker to put this number in context. Such extremely precise photometry is what's needed to discover exoplanets.

Again, the source for these bunch of posts comes from here in case you want to see more such awesome plots.

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