Search for second earth
Search for exoplanets
Get your place in history! It never was easier (and will never again be) ...
What you should have:
1. Camera: Your Camera shouldn't be the cheapest type one can buy, at least interchangeable lenses must be supported. And if you are already about to buy a new camera you should select one of the newer breed with higher chip sizes and thus higher light sensitivity.
What concerns CCD versus CMOS chips there are thousands of sites in the net which favour one or the other. Read them and make up your mind. Same is true what concerns SLR-Cameras.
WebCams: even the new (announced or already available) USB 3.0 webcams with high resolutions could be interesting, especially when combined with light-sensitve astronomic telescopes. This combination may even give better results than the camera option.
Telephoto lens: only light sensitive lenses should be used. What concerns focal length you can even start with 200mm, as the discovery of of Exoplanet XO-1b showed. The camera used a commercially available Canon telephoto lens (200mm focal length, f/1.8) and a CCD camera.
3. a place on the coutryside: Cyties in the first world are that much light poluted that looking for planets makes no sense.
If you fullfill all these prerequisites, you're in the game. You should constrain yourself in the beginning to the "transit"-method, which tries to detect exoplanets by watching for the small dip in luminosty of a star when a planet passes in front of the star. This method is the easiest to handle for an amateur and with the right software gives good results.
Now finally you got to decide what you want to search: "hot jupiters" or earth-like planets. "Hot jupiters" are easier to detect, because often they have orbit times in the range of days and are that big that they give a very prominent dip in the luminosity of the star when they pass in front of the star.
Earth-like planets have orbit times in the range of years and give only a very small dip in luminosity when they pass in front of their stars.
When the orbit of a planet is aligned with our line-of-sight toward the star, we can detect the "transit" of the planet as it crosses the star’s disc. Thus we are actually detecting the shadow the planet casts onto Earth, which causes a slight drop in the brightness of the star. We then need to make sure it is a planet and not any of the other things (Earth’s atmosphere, starspots, noise from the electronic cameras, etc.) that can cause drops in brightness also, and this statistical check we call the "transit detection algorithm" or TDA for short
The transit-method has one drawback: while spectroscopic displacement methods with highly sensitive instruments will find almost certainly a planet if it exists, with the transit method you must be lucky enough that you look straight in the rotation plane of the planet because else the planet will not transit in front of the star. And because this will seldom be the case, many times you may not be able to detect an existing planet.
But if you are the one that detects the "next earth" you will surely get remembered by history.
And chances are big that you will detect a planet since these are the very early days of planet hunting and there are waiting billions of planets to get detected.
And by the way: even if you only own a pc you may find exoplanets: see here
Soon you will find more to this subject on this page (cardanic suspension with xyz motor drives, lenses, telescops, software....).
Chinese/Taiwanese telescope manufacterers: The combination of the new camera chips with light sensitive telescopes will without any doubt be one of the big sellers in the next years.
Links to amateur-exoplanetes-sites :
Exoplaneten, detected by amateurs :
...in the Santa Ritas, an astronomer has discovered 13 exoplanets orbiting distant stars with the kind of telephoto lenses you would use to snap pictures of a high school football game. So it's not hard to predict that with the now announced or already available ultra-light-sensitive and ultra dense new photo chips we'll see a whole lot of new exoplanet detections by amateurs in the near future.
Extremely little telescope to hunt for Earthlike planets (please note: not giant exoplanets but "earthlike planets" !!!)
The Discovery of Exoplanet XO-1b (The camera used a commercially available Canon telephoto lens (200mm focal length, f/1.8) and a CCD camera.)