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Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question - scientific or technical - that isn't answered below, let us know using our comments form by clicking here.

What resources do astronomers use? 

Astronomers rely on a very wide range of different resources, from telescopes to search the sky to computers to analyse data. The most commonly used computer programming language is Python. Check out the tutorials section on how to get started with Python coding. Check out the resources videos for more information. To be a professional or citizen scientist astronomer you absolutely do not need a telescope. 

Why can't machines find and analyse the planets? 

Machines are very good at finding a certain type of planet - in particular they are biased on finding shorter period planets (planets that take a short amount of time to orbit around their star). However, computer algorithms tend to miss longer period planets and therefore potentially miss planets similar to the planets found within our own Solar System. Your brain, however, is very good at pattern recognition - meaning that with visual vetting we can find planets that algorithms missed. 

For coding, which notebook should I use - Jupyter or Colab?  

Both Jupyter notebook and Colab have very similar formats in that they both allow you to write code in a 'notebook' format that is easy to edit and change as you go along. Colab doesn't require any download  - it's a Google program and works similarly to Google docs or Google slides. For those reasons we recommend Colab. The only caveat is that you need a Google account (e.g. a gmail account).

Note: In the tutorial videos the Juptyer notebook is used. Jupyter notebook is a program that must be downloaded to your local computer, which can be done here

What is the connection to Planet Hunters TESS and NASA?

While we are not the Planet Hunters TESS project, the Planet Hunters Coffee Chat team works alongside the project and the Zooniverse team. Coffee Chat is a small team who works at NASA Ames Research Center and at Zooniverse, forging new paths to accelerate 

citizen science. 

What happens if I help to discover a planet?​

If you directly help discover or analyse a planet and we publish a paper, you might be contacted by the Planet Hunters TESS team and invited to be a co-author of a publication. 

What are Office Hours? 

 Office hours are focused on the material that is already available, but with a specific focus on the latest videos released. Make sure you watch the latest video before coming to Office Hours. We love talking about science and want Office Hours to be an open space where all questions, regardless of how big or small, are welcomed. 


Do I need to watch the videos in order? 


The material covered in the videos will get progressively more advanced. While it is recommended you watch them in order, you can also look at the titles and descriptions and simply jump into whichever videos sound the most interesting. If something doesn’t make sense you can always go back and watch the previous videos. 


Do I need to bring a hot beverage?

While we strongly encourage everyone to stay hydrated, whether to bring a drink or not is completely up to you! Depending on the time zone, your age and your mood you can bring whatever drink you please. 


Do I need any equipment? 


The only things you need are a device that connects to the internet and an appetite for science and a beverage (see question above for details about the beverage situation). A telescope is not needed for any of the science covered on Planet Hunters Coffee Chat.


I’m a science educator, can I use this material to teach? 


Absolutely! You are encouraged to use Planet Hunters TESS and Planet Hunters Coffee Chat in your classrooms. If there are any topics that you would like to see covered in more detail, please contact us

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