Monday, April 10, 2017

Transiting Planets at Magellan!

Hello! My name is Erin May, I'm a third year PhD student at the University of Michigan and I'm SO excited to be a part of Las Campanas Belles! 

Me on a previous observing run at LCO
I study exoplanet atmospheres by looking for small changes in light at different wavelengths as the planet crosses in front of its host star. If a planet blocks out more blue light than red light from the star, it means the planet's atmosphere is absorbing the blue light! This tells us about what types of molecules are present in the atmosphere - pretty cool, right?!

One of the "joys" of studying atmospheres is that I have to wait for an interesting planet to cross in front of its star. For the planet I observed last night, this only happens every few days - and is only observable every few weeks! Because of these pesky planets, every time I come to LCO, I only get to stay for one observing night, which means a lot of travel. I'd say the reward is pretty great, though, just look at that view!

My view from outside my room

This run is particularly exciting because it's my first time at the Observatory for empanada Sunday -somehow I've managed to miss it every time I've been here so far. The empanadas definitely lived up to their hype! 

Pardon the photo, I'm by no means a food blogger! 
While the observing conditions were less than ideal this time, there's no such thing as a bad trip to Las Campanas Observatory. I'm looking forward to being back here next month!