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Updates on High-Dispersion Spectroscopy, Radial Velocity and the Planet Search Program

Steven Vogt, PhD
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California, Santa Cruz. NASA

Dr. Steven Vogt of University of California, Santa Cruz, is part of a team called the California-Carnegie Planet Search Team that is building a new, 2.4 meter telescope in the Lick Observatory. This new telescope contains a new spectrometer that will be the most powerful in the world; able to track planets to a precision of 1 meter per second.

By measuring the movements of stars scientists can detect unseen planets.
By measuring the movements of stars scientists can detect unseen planets.

Along with his Planet Search Team, Vogt constantly tracks more than 1,330 stars-- determining stellar wobble due to the gravitational pull of a planet that may have gone undetected. This method, called radial velocity, has allowed Vogt and his team to find several extrasolar planets, such as a planet that is orbiting a star called Gliese 876, 15 light years from Earth, with an orbit time of just 1.94 Earth days. They estimated the surface temperature on the new planet at between 400 degrees and 750 degrees Fahrenheit.

Significance to Solar System Exploration

Is there life elsewhere in the Universe? Are there other planetary systems like our own?, How do planets and stars come into being? Are we alone? In the vast blackness of the Universe, our home planet is a sparkling oasis of life. Whether the Universe harbors other worlds that can support life is a question that has been asked for millennia. With the development of this new 2.4 meter telescope and spectrometer, planet finders have a greater chance of answering some of these prolific questions, and can bring some of the extrasolar system planets closer to our range of understanding.

Implications

One of the primary goals of Dr. Vogt's research is to attain Doppler shift precision levels to 1 meter per second. This will allow his group to more accurately assess planetary wobble activity in other solar systems. With the development of the new 2.4 meter telescope and NASA-funded spectrometer at Lick, the California-Carnegie team will be able to study the radial velocity of stars with more precision than ever before.

For further information about science highlights and having your research highlighted, please contact Samantha Harvey at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Samantha.K.Harvey@jpl.nasa.gov.

Last Updated: 23 February 2011

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Last Updated: 23 Feb 2011