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Waiting for the Big Blink
Photograph by Mark Thiessen

Planet hunters from the Eastbay Astronomical Society gather at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California. These serious amateurs choose stars already known to have planets, then "stare at the star waiting for it to blink," as Bruce Skelly (far right) puts it. A blink, or dimming, could indicate that the planet is transiting the star—crossing directly in front of it and blocking a fraction of its light. "Most of us have day jobs, and so we are all a little sleep deprived," he says, adding that they've had little success so far. But a new transit would be a bonanza, yielding clues to the diameter of the planet and even its makeup.

Photo Fast Facts

Camera: Canon EOS 1Ds
Film Type: Digital, ISO 100
Lens: 16-35mm
Speed and F-Stop: 15 sec. @ f/5.6

Weather Conditions: Clear
Time of Day: Evening
Lighting Techniques: Red gelled strobes in domes, three strobes in soft boxes down low on left, right, and center.


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