Democratizing & Enhancing Exoplanet Research with the Unistellar Citizen Science Network & Astronomy Modeling Instruction

PhD by Publication


Peluso, Daniel O’Conner. 2024. Democratizing & Enhancing Exoplanet Research with the Unistellar Citizen Science Network & Astronomy Modeling Instruction. PhD by Publication Doctor of Philosophy . University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/z58xw
Title

Democratizing & Enhancing Exoplanet Research with the Unistellar Citizen Science Network & Astronomy Modeling Instruction

TypePhD by Publication
AuthorsPeluso, Daniel O’Conner
Supervisor
1. FirstProf Brad Carter
2. SecondA/Pr Duncan Wright
3. ThirdCarlton R. Pennypacker
Dr Franck Marchis
Dr Colleen Megowan-Romanowicz
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages172
Year2024
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/z58xw
Abstract

This thesis explores the potential in democratizing and augmenting exoplanet research via citizen science by utilizing a global network of portable image-intensified computerized telescopes, and inquiry-based astronomy instruction. A central objective is to establish that citizen scientists, using exoplanet transit photometry with compact, connected telescopes, can bolster professional astronomy’s reliance on a limited number of large professional telescopes for exoplanet follow-up, discovery, and characterization. This research also investigates the efficiency of the Modeling Instruction Astronomy pedagogy, underscoring that teachers, even without specialized training, can effectively engage in astrophysics research (e.g., exoplanets) and enrich the educational experience for their students. Pivotal insights from this thesis include publishable scientific results from the Unistellar Exoplanet Campaign, with >1,000 exoplanet observations from 163 citizen scientists across 21 countries and a 43.2% transit detection success rate. This work refined the orbit of Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) planet candidates and improved mid-transit times (e.g., TOI 2031.01), highlighting the value of a globally distributed citizen science network in providing extended transit photometry across multiple time zones. In a corresponding education study, integrating stellar and exoplanet data into the Global Hands-on Universe (G-HOU) framework and using the Modeling Instruction pedagogy enhanced both teacher and student astronomical understanding, self-efficacy, and engagement. Following a workshop, teachers mostly without prior astronomy experience incorporated a depth of astrophysical content into their high school curricula that often surpassed what's found in many university-level introductory astronomy courses. Finally, this thesis confirms the discovery of the TESS single-transit dense warm sub-Saturn, TIC 139270665 b, identified with the help of citizen scientists and confirmed with the Doppler method and transit photometry. The Unistellar citizen science network provided vital photometric data, with high school students significantly contributing to this exoplanet through an “AstroReMixEd” (Astrophysics Research Mixed with Education) effort. The discovery of this unique sub-Saturn also offers a promising avenue for refining our understanding of planetary formation and evolution models. While the core of this thesis emphasizes advancement in exoplanet research, it concurrently highlights the significance of integrating professional astrophysics exoplanet endeavors with pioneering educational strategies.

Keywordscitizen science; exoplanet ; astrophysics ; astronomy education; amateur astronomy
Related Output
Has partThe Unistellar Exoplanet Campaign: Citizen Science Results and Inherent Education Opportunities
Has partConfirming the Warm and Dense Sub-Saturn TIC 139270665 b with the Automated Planet Finder and Unistellar Citizen Science Network
Contains Sensitive ContentDoes not contain sensitive content
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020510109. Stellar astronomy and planetary systems
510199. Astronomical sciences not elsewhere classified
3901. Curriculum and pedagogy
Public Notes

File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author/creator.

Byline AffiliationsCentre for Astrophysics
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Related outputs

Confirming the Warm and Dense Sub-Saturn TIC 139270665 b with the Automated Planet Finder and Unistellar Citizen Science Network
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The Unistellar Exoplanet Campaign: Citizen Science Results and Inherent Education Opportunities
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