It might surprise you to find out that you can detect exoplanets — planets that don’t orbit our Sun — from your own back yard. While more expensive and elaborate optics certainly yield better results, the video above shows you how you can detect an exoplanet using gear you probably have in your camera bag right now.
It’s worth noting from the get-go that this project requires a fair bit of experience with electronics and some basic science knowledge, but if you have the required equipment and enough determination, you’ll soon be able to detect exoplanets for yourself.
The first step is to ensure you have the required gear. Most importantly, you’ll need a DSLR, a telephoto lens that’s at least 300mm, and a star tracker.
The last of these can be expensive to come by, so if you’d prefer to take a cheaper route, you can build your own barn door tracker using plywood, an Arduino, a stepper motor and a few other components.
Next, you’ll need to pick a visible star that has a known exoplanet. The video uses star HD189733 as its focal point, but here’s a list of the nearest exoplanets if you’re wanting to diversify your discoveries.
After you’ve picked your star and accompanying exoplanet, get out your gear and start taking pictures of the star you’ve chosen. You can then use almost any post-production program to detect brightness changes in the star over time.
If your star has an exoplanet, you should see the star’s brightness decrease, then return to normal. It is then that you’ve captured the journey of an exoplanet.
The photos aren’t going to yield any impeccable results, but you can geek out over the fact that you captured an exoplanet.