Exoplanet Detection: Transit Method Simulation
This free computational model by Physlet developer Mario Belloni provides an interactive way for students to visualize how exoplanets are detected using the transit method. If the observer is in the right position, a planet passing in front of its star will block a small part of the star's light. This decrease in starlight can be detected by both Earth-based and space-based telescopes and represented using a graph of Light Intensity vs. Time. This simulation has tools that let the student adjust the radius of the exoplanet relative to Jupiter, adjust the radius of the star relative to Earth's sun, change the planet-to-star distance, and more. The simulation will be very helpful for students who are new to light curves in solar systems outside our own. It will help students realize that exoplanet hunting is much more complex than simply pointing a telescope.
Transiting Exoplanet Interactive Animation
Here's a very cool interactive that can help students understand exoplanet detection from the perspective of the observational telescope AND from the viewpoint of an observer above the entire system. Move the slider and watch the exoplanet "transit" in front of its star. Watch the changing light curve as the planet moves along its orbit. Resource was published on Viewspace.org, a digital product of the Space Science Telescope Institute.
NASA: Exoplanet Transit Animations
This is a set of three animations of exoplanet transits, created by the NASA Goddard Media Studios. The first shows one planet transiting its star; the second shows two planets of different sizes transiting two different stars; the third shows three planets of differing size transiting the same star. Each animation displays transit light curves alongside. View the animations in any browser, download them as a Quicktime file, or save still images as a jpeg.
PhET Simulation: Blackbody Spectrum
Now available in HTML5! This feature-packed sim lets students interactively explore how temperature influences the shape of a blackbody curve and how temperature and wavelength are related. How does the Sun's blackbody curve compare with hotter stars? How does light emitted from a light bulb look on a blackbody spectrum? You can scale the graph to get very clear views of the spectral curve of cooler objects.
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