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Transiting planets: Venus and beyond

On Wednesday 6 June 2012 the planet Venus will transit in front of the Sun. This will not happen again for another 105 years, and fortunately Australia is in a prime location to see the transit! The transit of Venus is historically important for this part of the world, as in 1769 Captain Cook undertook his first voyage to the south Pacific to observe it from Tahiti. It was hoped that by timing the transit astronomers at the time could work out the precise distance from Earth to the Sun. Now almost 250 years on, astronomers in Australia and elsewhere are discovering distant planets that transit other stars, and measurements of these transits are helping us to understand how common planets are in our galaxy, as well as how they form and what they are made of.

Dr Daniel Bayliss is a researcher at the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics based at Mt Stromlo Observatory. Dr Bayliss maintains the Australian telescopes in the HATSouth network, which are located at Siding Spring Observatory in northern NSW. These telescopes scan large patches of the night-sky looking for transiting planets around distant stars. Dr Bayliss uses larger telescopes in Australia and overseas to monitor stars that appear to have transiting planets orbiting them. These observations help to determine the mass, radius, density, and even atmospheric properties of these far-off worlds.

Dr Gáspár Bakos of Princeton University is the Principal Investigator for the HATNet and HATSouth projects (HAT is for Hungarian-made Automated Telescope). HATNet is a network of six small (11cm diameter), wide-field, fully-automated telescopes in the northern hemisphere that are designed to detect and characterize extrasolar planets and to find and to study bright variable stars. The HAT-South network is a newer project that uses larger telescopes (18cm diameter) installed around the southern hemisphere in Chile, Australia and Namibia - the first truly global network of identical telescopes allowing for round-the-clock monitoring of the sky.

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Presented by the Research School of Astronomy &
Astrophysics, ANU College of Physical & Mathematical Sciences

Speaker/Host: Dr Daniel Bayliss, ANU and Dr Gáspár Bakos, Princeton University
Venue: The Finkel Lecture Theatre The John Curtin School of Medical Research, Garran Road
Date: Tuesday, 5 June 2012
Time: 6:15 PM - 7:15 PM
Enquiries: Events on 6125 4144
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