Planetfinder: An Online Interactive Module for Learning How Astronomers Detect Extrasolar Planets
Planetfinder is a Web-based module designed to enable undergraduates to learn how astronomers detect extrasolar planets through observations of the Doppler shifts of a star’s spectral lines. The module guides students through the process of measuring the masses and orbital parameters of actual extrasolar planets by fitting model Doppler curves to the data. The main goal of the exercise is to give students an understanding of the process of scientific measurement and model fitting. The exercise can be done at various levels of difficulty, ranging from measuring the properties of planetary systems having nearly circular orbits without using algebra, to exploring properties of systems having eccentric orbits and the associated equations of motion. The module is self-checking. Student work is stored in a database that is easily accessible by the instructor. The module has been tested at several institutions and is available for public use.
McCray, R. 2006, Astronomy Education Review, 5(2), p.217–225