Introduction: Strange Planets

Dim house lights. DIGITAL EFFECT: Go To NightBring out stars.Fade music.  Hello, and welcome to the ________ Planetarium. Our program is called Strange Planets.But of course, strange is in the eye of the beholder.Any planet might seem strange. We have eight planets in the Solar System, all very different and each strange in its own way.We know at least […]

The Spectroscopic Method

Even before the Kepler Mission, finding extrasolar planets was really tough. Why do you think finding exoplanets is so hard?    [Extrasolar planets are extremely dim, very close to their stars, and so far away that the star’s glare ruins our chances of seeing the planets.] For decades, astronomers had suspected there were extrasolar planets out […]

Stars With Planets

In our planetarium sky, there are a couple of stars that have giant-size planets orbiting them, but with Mars-like orbits—farther out from their stars than Earth is from the Sun. They are not hot Jupiters. Are they strange planets?  You can see one of those stars year-round in the constellation of Cepheus.To find Cepheus, let’s start with […]

Habitable Zones & Kepler’s Laws

We’re especially interested in planets that might be good homes for living things. DIGITAL EFFECT: Our Solar SystemLift off from Earth, and move the scene to a top-down view of our Solar System, with the orbit lines of all the planets (out to Neptune) visible. If possible, scale the Sun and the planets sizes up […]

Transiting Planets

Using another very clever technique, we can not only discover extrasolar planets, but determine fairly accurately how big they are and, armed with Kepler’s Third Law, we can find out how far they are from the star. At this point show an orrery (model star with planets) with a light sensor aimed at it and […]

Finding an Earth-like Exoplanet

So if we will be getting all this data from the Kepler mission, how will we know if we do find an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone? Let’s imagine we are the planet finders and have a look at some data. VISUAL 21 (still): Light Curve Kepler-10b Here is light curve data from one […]

Conclusion: Strange Planets

DIGITAL EFFECT: ExoplanetsTurn on all exoplanet markers. We are finding new extrasolar planets all the time.But the goal is to find these habitable, Earth-like planets. DIGITAL EFFECT: ConclusionEnsure that Cygnus and the Kepler field of view target area are visible. Scale up the Kepler spacecraft image and rotate it to “point” toward the target area. […]

Exoplanet Materials

Rainbow projector Use a prism or diffraction grating mounted on a light source, such as a flashlight, overhead projector, or slide projector. Quality of spectrum is better with brighter light source and slit shaped source. Easy Alternative: A movie or still image(s) depicting the flashlight/rainbow demonstration ( Portable star-planet model Make a portable star-planet model […]

Star Wheels

…and Sky Challengers Starwheels are inexpensive star maps, adjustable for any time of night in any month of the year.  Such maps are also called planispheres.  Sky Challengers In the 1980s, Budd Wentz at the Lawrence Hall of Science with NSF funding developed Sky Challengers, a unique planisphere (adjustable star map) with 6 interchangeable disks:•  Introductory Wheel […]