Software Development within STScI’s TIKE Server to Increase Accessibility of TESS Exoplanet Transit Data to Introductory Astronomy StudentsEnter your title here

Templeton, Alexander, Astronomy, University of Virginia
Murphy, Edward, Astronomy, University of Virginia

A sorely underutilized tool in teaching astronomy concepts to new students of astronomy are exoplanet transits. They have the potential to be easy to understand, while demonstrating the concepts of light curves, creating time-series data from a single pixel, how Kepler’s laws can be practically used, and generally how astronomers are able to imply a great deal of information from relatively little data. It also allows students to leave the realm of textbooks and the theoretical and actually work with real data so that astronomical science might feel more accessible.

In the past, one hurdle in making exoplanet transit data analysis accessible to beginners has been the difficulty of actually finding, downloading, and storing processed data. TESS produced around 7 TB of data a month, and storing all that data just to find a few good examples of exoplanet transits would be impractical. Recently, however, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) has created the Time Series Integrated Knowledge Engine (TIKE). TIKE is a virtual server open to the public to use from which to easily access all the data from the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST), as well as all the software needed to analyze it (though with some limitations noted later).

So while there now exists an incredible resource for improving the accessibility of astronomical data, there remains a gap between the data and amateur users which is data interpretation. Bridging this gap is thus the primary focus of this project. Creating a program to make use of TIKE accessible data to allow students with little to no prior coding or astronomy experience to learn how to analyze exoplanet transit data, and then actually do so with real data from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

BA (Bachelor of Arts)
TIKE, STScI, MAST, Exoplanet Transits
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