Around a star slightly smaller than our own sun, about 200 light-years away, orbits a very odd, very big, and very hot planet known as HD80606b. The thing that makes this planet so odd is its highly eccentric orbit (with an eccentricity of 0.93). HD80606b's eccentric orbit takes it very close to its parent star at its lowest point in orbit, about 0.03 AU. During this period of close approach, the planet's atmosphere rises over 1,000 degrees F (555 degrees C) in about 4 hours! Talk about some bad weather! Of course, this enormous temperature swing causes massive storms called shockwave storms, since their winds would be faster than the speed of sound!
So How Could I Possibly See It?
Because of this planet's extremely large size and close orbit, it could actually block out part of its parent star during a transit. This is exactly what is predicted to happen on the evening of February 14, 2009. HD80606b will pass between Earth and its parent star, blocking out a tiny portion of its light. There is a tiny chance that amateur astronomers will be able to detect this event in moderately sized telescopes as a dimming of the star for a few hours on the night of Feb. 14. While it most probably won't be detectable by the human eye, test setups consisting of tracking mounts and CCD cameras could allow amateurs to maybe (just maybe) detect an exoplanet transit at home. Shown below are three finder maps I put together in wide, mid, and close-up views, so anyone can find this star to watch for the event. I'd love to hear any reports of observations of this! (Click to enlarge. Right-click, Save As... and print for use at the scope)
NOTE: If you get any CCD photometry data, please send it to AAVSO and transitsearch.org.