AAVSO Exoplanet Database Supports NASA’s Exoplanet Watch Program

January 13, 2023

Background is a large orb with a small orb at its center. A ring goes through and behind them. Data points in a dip shape overlay the large orb. Text reads, " Exoplanet transit of WASP 12b by AAVSO member and Exoplanet Section Leader Dennis Conti.

The AAVSO congratulates NASA on its recent official launch of the Exoplanet Watch program, and is pleased to provide its AAVSO Exoplanet Database as a repository for the program’s data. The AAVSO’s support of this program is part of its overall support to the professional community in exoplanet science. This especially includes the many AAVSO members who are part of the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) ground-based observing team.

The Exoplanet Watch program’s primary goals are to observe transits of confirmed exoplanets and collect information about the lengths of the exoplanet orbits. The more precise an exoplanet’s orbit is known, the better that precious time on large, ground-based telescopes or space-based telescopes, such as JWST, can be utilized.

In the early stages of Exoplanet Watch program, Rob Zellem, the creator of Exoplanet Watch and an astrophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, approached the AAVSO about using its already-established Exoplanet Database as a repository for the program’s observations. “The AAVSO’s Exoplanet Database is essential to the success of our Exoplanet Watch program since it provides a convenient repository for us to gather the data needed to help refine our knowledge of exoplanet orbits,” states Rob Zellem. “We are truly appreciative of the AAVSO team’s efforts to accommodate some changes to its database schema to support our program.”

“We worked closely with the Exoplanet Watch team to improve our data schemas, implement automated quality control checks, and build APIs to enable data science applications,” explains George Silvis. “Since becoming a volunteer software developer for the AAVSO, this is one of the most exciting projects I’ve worked on.”

The AAVSO Exoplanet Database (AED) grew out of a recognition that there was no central repository for storing the exoplanet observations of amateur astronomers and other citizen scientists with the metadata that would be needed by exoplanet researchers to effectively use this data in the future. So, in 2016, Dennis Conti (AAVSO’s Exoplanet Observing Section leader) initiated the development AED. The AED was officially launched in November of 2018.

In addition to monitoring exoplanet transits, users who reduce their exoplanet transit data also contribute to AAVSO’s International Database on variable stars (AID). “We worked with the Exoplanet Watch team to add some support for variable star astronomy to Exotic, the exoplanet analysis program used by many members of the Exoplanet Watch program. When an observer’s light curve contains out-of-transit data, those observations are calibrated and submitted to the AID,” AAVSO Staff Astronomer Bert Pablo describes. “This means that observers are not only helping define the exoplanet’s orbit, but also characterize the host star!”


About AAVSO:

The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) is an international nonprofit organization of citizen scientists and professional astronomers working together to increase the knowledge of the universe through education and by conducting variable star photometry and spectroscopy, as well as exoplanet observations. AAVSO's mission is to enable anyone, anywhere, to participate in scientific discovery through variable star astronomy. Visit us at https://www.aavso.org/. For more information on the AAVSO’s Exoplanet Observing Section, visit https://www.aavso.org/exoplanet-section.


About NASA and Exoplanet Watch

Exoplanet Watch is supported by NASA under award number NNX16AC65A to the Space Telescope Science Institute, in partnership with Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and JPL. For more information about Exoplanet Watch, visit https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/exoplanet-watch/For information about NASA’s Universe of Learning, visit https://www.universe-of-learning.org/.


AAVSO Media Contact

Lindsay Ward

AAVSO Communications Manager


+1 (617) 354-0484 x 100

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