Exoplanet databases

There are many online data archives about exoplanets, so here we have gathered together some of the better ones. Most of these will provide you with up-to-date information on the current status of exoplanet discoveries, including new results from the NASA TESS mission.

NASA Exoplanet Archive: This is a very up-to-date and comprehensive data archive as you would expect from NASA. It is very detailed and not aimed at educational use, but provides access to a huge amount of data and data analysis tools.

“The NASA Exoplanet Archive is an online astronomical exoplanet catalog and data service that collects and serves public data that support the search for and characterization of extra-solar planets and their host stars.” (Wikipedia)

Level: High school (ages 16+); University

Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia: A European site, available in several other languages (including Arabic, Russian and Japanese). Easier to use than the NASA data archive, but still without any educational materials.

Level: High School; University

Open Exoplanet Catalogue: This catalogue does not seem to be updated as often as the previous ones, but the display is easier to understand, and the designers have set out to provide tools to allow users to work on data using their own code.

There is also an iPhone app version, and Python scripts to help analyse the data in the archive.

“The Open Exoplanet Catalogue is a catalogue of all discovered extra-solar planets. It is a new kind of astronomical database. It is decentralized and completely open. We welcome contributions and corrections from both professional astronomers and the general public.” (OEC website)

Level: High school; University

Exoplanet Transit Database: This site is invaluable if you want to observe transiting exoplanets as it can predict when known systems will undergo transit events and also help you fit the lightcurves. It contains a large archive of transit lightcurves, rated by quality.

” ETD is here to supply quickly and easily the list of all ever observed transits of transiting exoplanets to observers and researchers.

Our database administrators are periodically checking for new transits – both in literature and in on-line internet sources. Each transit is stored with complete citations, link to the paper / on-line source URL.”

Level: High school; university

The PHL Exoplanet catalog: Maintained by the Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL), this database is unique in that it also includes information on astrobiological parameters.

” The PHL’s Exoplanets Catalog (PHL-EC) contains observed and modeled parameters for all currently confirmed exoplanets derived from the NASA Exoplanet Archive, including those potentially habitable. The main difference between PHL-EC and other exoplanets databases is that it contains estimated parameters, habitability assessments, and planetary classifications.”

Level: High school; University

Introduction to stellar evolution

“Stars are much like humans. They are born, live their lives and die.” Ilgmars Eglitis, astronomer

Observing the spectra of stars allows us to look deep into their origin and characteristics. A large catalog of star spectra exists at Baldone Observatory in Latvia, which is being made available online this year.

In the picture above, each horizontal “line” is the raw spectrum of one star. These are investigated with simple graphical tools, allowing us to determine each stars characteristics, origin and evolutionary state.

More educational material will appear on these pages over time. So far, you can play with this Black Body radiation calculator.

Baldone observatory, Latvia
A lot of details are hidden in the spectra of stars. To study them, even using just a fraction of the techniques and theory available to professional astronomers, allows us to identify the spectral type of stars, their current age and evolutionary state. For simplicity, we model stars as being Black Bodies, so simulations like this can help us understand the light output of stars of different temperatures.
Black body radiation spectrum generated using the online simulator.
The user interface from the online simulator.

Stars are born in huge clouds of gas and dust, such as those seen below in images obtained from the Faulkes Telescope Project.

Stars can die in a number of ways, but the more massive stars (maybe those 10 times or more massive than our Sun) explode in spectacular supernovae, such as those seen in the images below.

Learning about colours in astro photography

In astrophotography, colours are treated in different ways – telescopes generally do not take colour pictures, but use special filters to capture light in particular parts of the optical spectrum (e.g. red light only). This interactive app from the Faulkes Telescope project will show you how colour images are made using different filters, combining them to make various types of “colour image”.

Formation of the Moon

In this activity, pupils will learn about the formation of the Moon. They will also learn about the lunar orbit and the distance to the Moon. In groups, pupils will perform simple classroom experiments to investigate how craters are formed when a small asteroid strikes a planetary surface. They will understand that the appearance of a crater depends on the speed of the rock and to a lesser degree the angle at which it hits the ground.

Access online telescopes

Gain access to the Faulkes Telescope project, where teachers and students can access a global network of telescopes. Both live- and queue-based observations are available.

Choose what you want to observe and get your own pictures of planets, galaxies and nebulae.

Access to the Faulkes Telescope project is available for teachers and students in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Latvia through Online Observatory – do not miss out on this opportunity!

Impact calculator

This app allows you to simulate impacts on the Earth, Moon or Mars.

You can select the impactor parameters (composition, size, velocity, angle of impact) and then choose a target location. The crater that would be produced by your impactor is then displayed, along with various facts and figures about the impact.

You can compare your crater with real craters on each of the target bodies.

The sky above us

The rotation of the Earth is investigated by observing the length
of a toy figure’s shadow in the course of a day. As an
introduction, the pupils can spin around themselves like the
planet Earth to reveal the daily motion of our planet, and they
can try to create different kinds of shadows with a torch.

As an extended task, you can use the free Stellarium software to
investigate how the Sun seems to move across the sky in the
course of a day and how this movement changes in the course of
a year.

MATERIALS

Related resources

Meteor camera network

Every day, several tons of material fall from space down on earth. Some of this material are rocks of sufficient size to make meteors (shooting stars) that survive the extreme heat as they are decelerated through our atmosphere. A few times every year, we see big fireballs, meteors big enough to survive all the way down onto the ground.

An artists impression of a fireball seen from space

The possibility of finding a meteorite have sent many out looking for stones that carry the signs of a space rock. Several networks of all-sky cameras exist around the globe, with the aim of doing research on meteor activity. Now, a network is being built to supply schools with unique class room material, where young students can participate in identifying meteors, calculating where their landing sites and their extra terrestial origins.

Here at the Online Observatory, we develop activities and tools that allow schools to contribute in the hunt for meteors and meteorites. The following talk was given at an event held at the Brorfelde Observatory in Denmark, June 2019.

As presented on the Multiplier Event at Brorfelde Observatory in June 2019

As presented on the Multiplier Event at Brorfelde Observatory in June 2019

Do you want to learn more about this project or have ideas on how to make these ideas even better, please contact us with your ideas and questions.

Geogebra files

Some activities require Geogebra files, where students can manipulate arrows indicating the path of given meteors. In these files, they can get acquainted with coordnates and distances of any given event. The files are still only prepared with maps of southern Norway.

Here are a few Geogebra files for download: