|© Lynette Cook,
|Artist's conception of the CM Draconis binary star system, where the first search for terrestrial-sized planets in the circumstellar habitable zone was done by Doyle, Deeg, and the TEP (Transit of Extrasolar Planets) observing network in the mid- to late 1990s.|
PlanetQuest is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to inspire global participation in the discovery of planets. It is a direct link between you and the stars, through the help of our professional astronomers. When you join PlanetQuest, you begin to contribute to our collective understanding of the universe right away! All you need is a computer and an Internet connection.
PlanetQuest's scientific mission is the discovery—by PlanetQuesters—of thousands of new planets in our galaxy within the next five years. More than 300 planets around other stars have been discovered since 1995. The difficulty is that planets around other stars are too small and faint to be seen directly. Their presence must be determined indirectly through a process that requires careful analysis of very large amounts of astronomical data.
Our Collaboratory software turns your computer into an astronomical observatory and resource library. Our telescopes are focused on extremely dense star regions, such as the center of the galaxy in Sagittarius, and when an observing run ends and thousands of images have been collected, data will be downloaded to your computer and your Collaboratory software will begin analyzing it.
In less than a month, you should know whether you have a planet candidate. But even if you don't yet, you will have discovered important new information about that star—information that will contribute to our overall understanding of the universe. With our telescopes and your computer, you'll make real discoveries at the frontiers of knowledge.
Discovering a new delta Scuti star, for example, will help astronomers better understand the stability of stars; a new Cepheid variable star would help astronomers determine how far away stars are. Most exciting of all, you could discover a new planet—a never-before-seen world beyond our solar system! You will be credited for your discovery, and your find will be entered into the PlanetQuest catalog.
But there is much more to PlanetQuest than just helping astronomers make new discoveries. The PlanetQuest Collaboratory allows you to learn more about astronomy. For instance, if you discover a new RR Lyrae star and wonder, "What's that?," the Collaboratory will help you find out. This is your portal to five levels of illustrated, interactive PlanetQuest educational content. From elementary explanations requiring no background in science whatsoever, to offprints of professional astrophysical journals, the Collaboratory makes learning easy and fun. You can learn about the history of astronomy, the types of telescopes we use, other planet detection methods, and many related subjects.
PlanetQuest enhances both science and science education. It connects
you in a more personal way with the grandness of the universe, and allows you
to participate in—rather than just watch or read about—cutting-edge
science. Together we can unite people all over our world in the search for other